Israel deploys snipers and tanks to Gaza border ahead of Friday protests
Israel announced on Thursday it was significantly boosting its military presence on the Gaza border, ahead of protests by Palestinian activists that are expected to take place on Friday.
Snipers, infantry and armoured vehicles are being moved to the Gaza border, with fears that Friday's planned demonstrations could lead to a bloodbath for the protesters.
Israel will also deploy its Iron Dome anti-rocket system to the border region, saying the reinforcements were intended to "thwart terrorism and prevent penetration into Israel along the Gaza border fence".
Demonstrations began in March for the right of refugees in Gaza to return their homes lost since the 1948 creation of Israel, with at least 193 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces who have used live fire on the unarmed protesters.
Israel has accused Palestinians of endangering lives and destroying farmland through the use of incendiary devices and pinned blame on Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, for the deaths, which include dozens of children.
Human rights groups and the UN have condemned Israel's overwhelming use of force to disperse the demonstrations.
The leader of Hamas' political wing, Yahya Sinwar, told an Israeli newspaper this week that although an "explosion is inevitable" he believed "a new war [with Israel] is not in anybody's interest", and called for an end to the siege on Gaza.
"We cannot prevail in a confrontation against a nuclear power... And certainly [another war] is not in our interest. War gains nothing."
Gaza has been under siege by Israel and Egypt, leading to acute shortages of basic good with aid agencies warning the Palestinian enclave is on the verge of collapse.
Agencies contributed to this story.