Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers fired on Palestinians protesting near the Gaza Strip barrier on Thursday, March 29. The Ministry of Health in Gaza did not immediately report associated casualties. Some 200 Palestinians reportedly took part in the violent demonstrations at four points along the Israel-Gaza barrier; some of the protesters ignited fires on the Gazan side and hurled rocks at IDF personnel.
The clashes come after an Israeli general warned on March 28 that the army would open fire on protesters who approached the Israeli border "dangerously." Additional Israeli troops, snipers, and drones have been deployed the border area. These heightened tensions come ahead of a planned six-week tent city protest along the Israeli-Gazan border beginning on Friday, March 30 ("Land Day"), in which thousands of Palestinians are expected to participate.
"Land Day" is annually observed among Palestinians on March 30. It commemorates the events of that day in 1976 when six Arab-Israeli citizens were killed and hundreds more wounded or arrested amid a general strike and widespread protests over land confiscated by Israeli authorities.
Security measures have also been strengthened across Israel ahead of the Passover holiday - celebrated from Friday, March 30, to Saturday, April 7 - including operations to arrest undocumented Palestinian workers in the country, as well as the issuance of travel warnings to a number of countries. Typically, Israeli security forces also maintain a heightened security presence in East Jerusalem during Passover and forbid Palestinians to enter Israel for work, including those with valid permits.
In general, rocket fire and strikes between Israel and the Gaza Strip have intensified since early December 2017. Dozens of rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip, followed by retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. Although the rockets are often fired by independent groups, the Israeli government holds Hamas responsible and regularly hits Hamas positions in retaliation.
Individuals present in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are advised to avoid all protests or other public gatherings due to the risk of violence and to monitor developments to the situation. Due to the underlying terrorist threat, travelers in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip are advised to report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and to remain vigilant when visiting sites deemed particularly likely to be targeted in an attack (public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, markets, prominent hotels and restaurants, etc.). As a reminder, several Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and areas near the Israeli-Lebanese, Israeli-Syrian, and Israeli-Egyptian borders.
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