Israeli air force drones have dropped thousands of leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians taking part in protests called by Hamas against the US’ embassy move to Jerusalem will put their lives in danger.
“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) is determined to defend Israel’s citizens and sovereignty against Hamas’ attempts at terrorism undercover of violent riots,” the leaflets read.
“Don’t get near the fence and don’t take part in Hamas’ show, which endangers you.”
The IDF is bracing for an expected 100,000 protesters at the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday, the same day the US fulfils its controversial promise to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Hamas, the militant group that rules the Strip, has been bussing demonstrators to three crossing points since 10am (8am BST), urging supporters to break through the fence.
The leadership has posted maps and pictures on social media showing the easiest routes to Israeli towns near the border, worrying Israeli authorities that communities could be targeted by arson and vandalism and attempts to kidnap soldiers.
The order given to soldiers is to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel at any price, including direct live fire.
Israel has also warned Hamas that any mass breakthrough will result in airstrikes on the group’s infrastructure inside the Strip.
It is feared Monday’s protests could see mass casualties, the culmination of a weeks-long campaign in the run up to the embassy move and the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’, on Tuesday – which comes a day after Israel's 70th independence day, which Israelis mark on the Hebrew calendar, so it was celebrated this year in April.
The IDF has deployed 11 battalions along the Gaza border as well as special forces, intelligence units and snipers, Haaretz says. Several extra units have also been posted to the West Bank.
Since late March, 42 Palestinians have been killed in protests against the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which after 11 years and two rounds of fighting with Israel is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. At least 1,800 more have been injured – many of them shot in the legs, leading to amputations.
At least five people have been injured by Israeli fire so far on Monday.
US President Donald Trump announced in December last year that his administration would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision that was condemned by the Palestinian Authority and most of the international community.
The holy city is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital and most countries maintain embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv. Israel annexed East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War in a move which has never been recognised under international law.
Mr Trump has also identified brokering a Middle East peace deal as a key foreign policy priority.
The embassy move, however, has infuriated Palestinians, leading President Mahmoud Abbas to cut off ties with the US, saying it is unable to remain an “honest mediator” in the peace process.
Monday’s re-opening of the existing US consulate in Jerusalem as an embassy will be attended by Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, both White House advisers, and Mideast peace negotiator, Jason Greenblatt.
In a celebration event at the Israeli foreign ministry on Sunday evening, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mr Trump’s “bold decision” as “the right thing to do”.
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