*This article was updated at 8:30 p.m.
While Israel celebrated the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, Palestinians began a two-day mass protest at various locations including the Gaza border where tensions have been brewing for weeks.
With black smoke rising into the sky, the border between Gaza and Israel resembled a war zone as an estimated 40,000 protestors at various locations threatened to breach the border fence between Israel and the coastal strip.
As of 8 p.m., 52 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded, according to Palestinian media reports. Hospital officials were preparing for mass casualties. At least three of those killed were attempting to place explosives at the fence.
Protestors burned tires, threw stones at Israeli soldiers and flew flaming kites into Israel. Hamas ordered a general strike of business and schools in the Strip in order to encourage more people to head to the border and take part in the rioting.
Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas has promised transportation to the border and $100 to anyone who went to protest.
The protests coincide with the diplomatic recognition by America of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Yom i-Nakba, Day of Catastrophe in Arabic, when Palestinians commemorate the displacement of Arabs following Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The Nakba is commemorated on May 15, the day after the Gregorian calendar date of Israel’s Independence.
Two weeks ago Gazans destroyed pipelines at the Kerem Shalom crossing that supply gas and oil to Gaza, which is already suffering from a devastating energy crisis. Last week rioters destroyed a conveyor belt there, officially rendering the crossing useless. Hundreds of cargo trucks had passed into Gaza daily bringing supplies and construction material through this crossing.
In the last few days Israeli Air Force planes dropped leaflets into Gaza in order to warn civilians against participating in Hamas-organized protests.
“Recently, Hamas has been waging violent and terrorist activities against the State of Israel along the border,”one of the leaflets read. “Hamas hides its many failures and endangers your lives. At this time Hamas is stealing your money and is using it to dig tunnels at your expense. You deserve a better government and a better future. Do not go near the fence and do not participate in a Hamas show that endangers you.”
The IDF’s main objective is to prevent a breach. Soldiers have also been stationed within the communities in southern Israel near the Gaza border.
Whether Hamas members or not, most Gaza residents are plagued by a sense of hopelessness as they are living in abject poverty and unable to leave the coastal strip of land. Even the border with Egypt is sealed since Hamas violently seized power in Gaza in 2007.
“We have been in jail for 12 years, which the Israeli government has imposed on the residents of Gaza,” Sami Obeid, an analyst for Gaza’s Al-Manar radio station, told Ynet. “There is no food, no water, no life, nothing. Even if a million people die, we will come to the fence.”
Hamas published a video threatening to breach the fence and kill Israelis. Hamas has invested heavily in the past decades in building tunnels from Gaza into Israel, used to attack Israelis. The IDF located and destroyed yet another one last week.
Demonstrations are ongoing in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well, spreading Israeli forces thin.
*This article was updated at 8:30 p.m.
Please pray for safety, peace, salvation and hope.
“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.”