Sunday, February 24, 2008


Israel prepares for mass protests at Gaza border
JERUSALEM, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Israel has put paramilitary police on standby and boosted surveillance along the Gaza border in case Palestinians try to break through into Israel as they did in Egypt last month, security sources said on Sunday.

A pro-Hamas group said it would hold a peaceful protest on Monday in which it estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 women and children would form a “human chain” stretching the length of the Gaza Strip. Organisers said they had no intention of breaching the border.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Defence Forces said: “The IDF is preparing based on reports from the Palestinian media.” She declined to elaborate.

Israel became increasingly concerned after Hamas Islamists blew open Gaza’s southern Rafah border wall with Egypt last month, and Hamas officials raised the possibility of similar breaches along the border with Israel. ...

The head of the Popular Anti-Siege Committee protest organisers, Jamal al-Khudary, said: “We do not have intentions of approaching the fence, either in the north or the south. We hope all the participants will abide by the instructions and we will try to prevent any violations.”

Organisers said Hamas-controlled schools across Gaza would get time off to allow students to take part in the protest.

An Israeli security source said the army was preparing for “all scenarios”.

“Obviously, if gunmen start shooting at the fence we will have to respond in kind and we are absolutely unwilling to countenance a situation where the fence is breached like it was at Rafah,” the source said.

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