Since mid-September 2018 Hamas has raised the level of its anti-Israel violence. It increased the number of riots and propaganda demonstrations along the border and their accompany violence. Events peaked during the “return marches” on Friday September 21 and 28, 2018, attended on both days by up to 20,000 Gazans. Rioters clashed with IDF forces, threw IEDs and hand grenades at the soldiers and made frequent attempts to cross the security fence. There was also a significant increase in the number of incendiary kites and balloons launched into Israel, some of which were armed with explosive devices.
- The rise in violence led to increased friction between rioters and IDF forces, which in turn led to an increase in the number of Gazan casualties (seven killed and 506 wounded during the September 28 riots, according to the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip). Hamas’ provocations and the large number of resulting casualties may potentially lead to another round of escalation, even if Hamas’ intention is only to control the increased violence and tension.
- Apparently the violence was influenced by a sense of frustration, because progress towards reconciliation and a possible arrangement stalled after after Hamas officially announced the end of indirect negotiations with Israel (al-Arabiya al-Hadath, September 23, 2018). In the background, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is threatening to cut off funds it transfers to the Gaza Strip, UNRWA faces difficulties and the economic situation is stagnant.