They, of course, didn’t begin today. This New York Times article from a couple of weeks ago is a pretty good guide to what we’ve seen.
The protests aren’t spontaneous:
For weeks, Palestinians protesting along the fence between Gaza and Israel have conjured up the idea of swarming across the barrier, a mass of tens of thousands of people too numerous for Israeli soldiers to arrest or even to shoot.
They aren’t peaceful:
Hamas has called the protests peaceful, despite the Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli soldiers and firebombs attached to kites that are routinely sailed over the fence, setting fires to Israeli farmland. Israel, defending its use of deadly force, has described the protests as riots that could turn into an invasion at any time.
Israeli communities are close to the border, and Israeli forces can’t just allow them to be stormed by armed rioters:
For the first time in five weeks of protests, some reached the second barrier — a sensor-laden fence that marks the edge of Israeli territory — and tried to climb it or pull it down. A few hundred yards beyond it lies the Israeli farming community of Nahal Oz.
The rioters, at least some of them, are clear about their intentions (This from a Washington Post article):
While some said they would abide by official calls to keep the demonstrations peaceful, others talked about their enthusiasm to break into Israel and wreak havoc.
“We are excited to storm and get inside,” said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, “Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.”
The appeal that Hamas leaders make to the rioters is explicitly to martyrdom and death:
But then the senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan gave a rousing speech, urging the protesters not to fear death but to welcome martyrdom.
“When we are brave, we are getting closer toward martyrdom, martyrdom, martyrdom,” he said.
Thousands began streaming toward the barrier fence, setting off a tremendous barrage of tear gas from the Israeli side that did not deter many.
Mr. Radwan thundered on: “We say to Nikki Haley, to Netanyahu, to the criminal Lieberman” — referring to the United States ambassador to the United Nations, the Israeli prime minister and Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman — “we are afraid neither of death nor of martyrdom.”
And, of course, Hamas is lying to its human shields:
At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them.