The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 snipers, with permission to fire, on the Gaza border, before a planned mass Palestinian demonstration near Gaza’s border with Israel, the Israeli top general said in an interview published on Wednesday.
“We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces … If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire,” Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, the military’s chief of staff, told the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
The annual “Land Day” protest is set to begin on March 30, a symbolic day in which six Arab citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations in 1976 over Israeli land confiscations.
The six-week long protest is for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel.
The protest is due to end on May 15, the day Palestinians call the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.
Palestinians have long demanded that as many as five million direct descendants of the original Palestinian refugees be given the right to return to their ancestral homes. Israel rules this out, arguing that the return of Palestinians to what is now Israel would outnumber its Jewish majority.
The protest is supported by several Palestinian political parties, including Hamas, organisers said.
It is expected that thousands in the besieged Gaza will gather in tent cities in five locations on the Palestinian side of the border, away from the “no go” zone.
The Israeli military enforces a “no go” zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza adjacent to Israel’s fenced border.
Palestinian protestors on the Gaza side of the border have been frequently confronted by the Israeli soldiers using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.