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CBN News’ close-up look at Israel’s deadly Gaza border threat

JERUSALEM, Israel – Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s permanent observer to the United Nations, wants a vote condemning Israel for what he calls “excessive use of force” against Palestinians trying to breach Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. It’s the latest of many attempts to pit the world against Israel for defending itself. These “protests” have presented a challenge most countries have never faced.

CBN News got a rare close-up look at the violence on the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Rioting near the border, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Rioting near the border, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“We’re standing just a few yards away from the Israel-Gaza border,” said CBN Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell. “This is the front line of a more than two-month battle between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces. This day was called Iranian Quds Day.”

Like many other places along the border, soldiers faced deadly force.

“Today we’ve had three grenades thrown at Israeli troops at this specific location,” IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CBN News.

IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“It’s not legitimate and [it’s not] civilian riots,” an IDF commander, whose name is withheld for security reasons, explained. “The leaders of the riots are [members of] Hamas, and they are trying to challenge us.”

This front-line commander said the IDF faces daunting military challenges defending its border.

IDF patrols the border with the Gaza Strip, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
IDF patrols the border with the Gaza Strip, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“If you take civilians and you put between them people to throw grenades and you put between them women and children, then you make us challenge[s] all the time, but we have the rules of engagement,” he explained.

Those rules include dropping thousands of leaflets the day before an expected demonstration warning Gazans to stay away from the fence. The next day, the IDF uses loudspeakers to try to keep people away.

IDF warns demonstrators not to approach the fence, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
IDF warns demonstrators not to approach the fence, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“Residents of Gaza, this is the Israel Defense Forces. Civilians are forbidden from approaching the area of security fence. We request that you do not send your women and children to the frontline.”

Then the soldiers use tear gas to deter those trying to approach the fence.

“And after that, only shooting in the air,” he continued. “If they will try to cross the fence with using of [wire] cutters, using of burning of tires, there will be no choice and they will have to shoot with snipers to the foot [lower legs]. That’s what we do before we use lethal weapons.”

The commander says their priority is protecting Israeli civilians.

Fires near the border, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Fires near the border, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“Nobody wants to cross to Israel to hug the people that live in Nahal Oz or in Nativ Hasara [two communities close to the border]. That’s not their purpose,” he said.

“A few hundred meters from here, just behind us, is the kibbutz of Nahal Oz,” Conricus continued. “For the soldiers who are deployed here it’s very clear: we’re here to defend against a massive amount of violent rioters who are hiding terrorists behind them. They want to tear down the defenses and get inside, and our job – of a military of a sovereign nation – is to stop them and to defend our Israeli civilians.”

Throughout the demonstrations, the IDF faced criticism at the UN, in world capitals and in the media.

“To the critics, I’d say stand in our shoes and walk in our boots a few miles. Have those thousands of rioters and terrorists try and invade into your country and to risk or to threaten your civilians and then criticize us,” Conricus said.

This article originally appeared on CBN News, June 13, 2018, and reposted with permission.

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Chris Mitchell
Chris is CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem.

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