Israel steps up armoured deployment on Gaza border

-2018-10-19 16:57:04 | عربي دولي

Israel ramped up its armoured forces along the Gaza border on Thursday in a daylight show of force after a rocket that was allegedly fired from Gaza hit an Israeli residence, as Palestinian resistance group Hamas disavowed the strike

With the deployment clearly visible near the besieged Gaza Strip, senior Egyptian security officials met leaders of the enclave's ruling Hamas to try to calm tensions.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group quickly denied firing the rockets.

Much may depend on the scope and intensity of a planned Palestinian protest at the border on Friday, where often violent demonstrations have been held over the past six months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin convened his security Cabinet on Wednesday and pledged to take "very strong action".

A Reuters photographer counted some 60 tanks and armoured personnel carriers at a deployment area near the border, calling it the largest number he has seen there since the 2014 Israeli onslaught on Gaza and its rulers, Hamas.

In Gaza, a Palestinian official said the Egyptian delegation was also in contact with Israeli officials to curb the current tensions.

"The situation is delicate," he said.

"Palestinian factions are demanding an end to the Israeli blockade that strangled life and business in Gaza," the official told Reuters.

Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel's founding in 1948.

About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the border protests began, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. 

Palestinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites and on occasion breached the frontier fence.

More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the coastal enclave. Israeli occupation troops and settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but tight controls of its land and sea borders still stand. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

In addition to sporadic incidents, the Israelis launched three onslaughts against Hamas in the past 10 years. The internationally-mediated peace process aimed at finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all but moribund.