On Friday March 30, Hamas gathered thousands of its subjects at the border fence separating Gaza from Israel to inaugurate the “March of Return.” The protests are planned to continue until May, culminating in a massive attempt to storm the border. Oded Granot explains:
[Hamas’s] calculation is simple. Israel has enough military might to repel any military threat to its borders and sovereignty. But it won’t dare slaughter civilians en masse—women and children who are trying to “return to their homes in Haifa, Acre, and Ashkelon.” And if, heaven forbid, it did, it would be immediately condemned by the international community and accused of harming innocent civilians and of crimes against humanity. . . .
About 250 buses brought some 30,000 people to the border area [on Friday]. Some are relatives of Hamas operatives and public officials. Not everyone participated willingly. Some were forced.
This was no peaceful, popular demonstration, as the organizers promised it would be. This was incitement. Rocks were thrown. Attempts were made to vandalize the border fence, and demonstrators were used as cover for an attempted attack against IDF forces. When these attempts failed, and seventeen people had been killed—including ten known terrorists—Israel was accused of perpetrating a mass slaughter. In this sense, Hamas’s tactics during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, in which it located terrorist headquarters and weapons caches in civilian homes, didn’t differ much from the events on Friday. In both cases, civilians were forced to serve as human shields.