IDF troops shelled Hamas military posts in the Gaza Strip four times on Wednesday in response to mortar shell fire at forces operating near the border fence. There have been six incidents of fire opened on Israeli troops on the frontier over the past two days. There were no Israeli soldiers hurt in any of the incidents.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed full responsibility for the attacks Wednesday against Israel. A Hamas spokesman
He clarified that the escalation against Israel is a new development, and that the various Palestinian factions in Gaza are discussing how best to deal with the escalation. He called on the all of the international players who helped sponsor the truce between Israel and Hamas to hold Israel responsible for its "repeated violations of the ceasefire."
Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that Israel continuously violates the sovereignty of Gaza.
Hamas has evacuated all of its commanders in the Strip out of worry that the Israeli Air Force will hit them in response to the mortar fire. This is a routine Hamas procedure for whenever tensions escalate between Israel and Hamas.
Israel responded by sending strong messages to Hamas through various interlocutors, saying that if the mortar fire continues, Israel will have a harsh response.
The IDF believes that Hamas is firing mortars to deter the IDF from searching and destroying its terror tunnels into Israel. According to Israeli officials, the mortar fire is being shot in such a manner so as to not change the dynamics of the status quo.It seems that Hamas has no interest in significant escalation of the situation.
On Monday morning, Palestinians fired a mortar shell at IDF soldiers doing engineering work near the border fence, leading the army to respond with tank fire at a Hamas observation point near a landfill in southern Gaza, not far from the Sufa Crossing. The Palestinians reported damage to the Hamas military post, but no casualties.
This was the first time a mortar shell is fired at an IDF force since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. During the past year and a half, there were several instances of gunfire and explosives targeting the troops, but this is the first rocket to fall near an Israeli force.
In a second incident early Wednesday afternoon, IDF soldiers operating by the Gaza border fence near Saja'iyya reported hearing an explosion. The military is checking whether a mortar shell was once again launched at them.
According to Palestinian reports, the IDF once again responded by shelling two observation posts that belongs to the Hamas military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, located east of Saja'iyya.
In the third incident within five hours on Wednesday, an IDF force once again heard an explosion, and once more responded with tank fire at Hamas military targets in Saja'iyya.
The fourth incident of mortar shell fire at IDF forces led to two tank shells being fired at the Tufach neighborhood which is located in the eastern part of the city of Gaza, not far from Saja'iyya.
The incidents occurred a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the area for a tour of the Gaza border. During his visit, he examined the recently-discovered Hamas tunnel that burrowed her way into Israeli territory, and received a briefing from the GOC Southern Command and the Gaza Division commander on the situation in the area.
Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian sniper opened fire from Saja'iyya at an IDF engineering force operating near the border fence.
The recent incidents have been perpetrated by rebellious Salafist groups trying to escalate the situation between Hamas and the IDF, as the Israeli military is conducting engineering work near the border fence in search for new border-crossing tunnels.
In recent days, the Hamas stopped a militant cell that was reportedly planning to carry out attacks against Israeli targets. The Hamas Interior Ministry's announcement said the cell foiled sought to harm the security and stability in the Gaza Strip, but fell short of detailing which organization the cell belongs to and what exactly were its plans.