Sunday, February 24, 2008
"......"Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces beefed up troops along the border with Gaza, fearing thousands of Palestinians may march on the border in protest of Israel's economic sanctions.
Israel fears that crowds of Palestinians might rush the border, and that large numbers of casualties will result from the army's attempts to stop them.
The concerns are based on the breaching of the Gaza-Egyptian border a month ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed across Rafah into Egypt after Hamas blew up the wall there. Israel believes Hamas is now planning a new action, directed at Israel, to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and draw global attention to the plight of Gaza's impoverished residents......
Hamas declared Saturday as an international day of protest against the siege. Anti-Israel rallies were held in a number of Arab and European countries. Thousands of Palestinians attended the main demonstration in Gaza City, marching to the United Nations headquarters. The IDF deployed a number of battalions near the fence in the northern Strip to prepare for possible Palestinian attempts to breach the border.
The IDF Gaza Brigade has been conducting exercises simulating mass civilian marches, outfitting the soldiers with riot-control gear. The army is concerned that Palestinians may try to take over crossings on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, and that Hamas intends to march them into a Jewish community near Gaza.
Military sources cite the "Hezbollah precedent": The sign that the buffer zone in southern Lebanon was collapsing on the eve of the IDF's withdrawal in May 2000 came when the Southern Lebanese Army abandoned the Taybeh post and hundreds of unarmed Lebanese civilians marched on it......"