Photo: AFP
IDF tanks on the Gaza border
Photo: AFP

IAF strikes Hamas targets in Gaza in response to mortar fire

Despite Palestinian claims of renewed ceasefire, the military to continue operations to locate more attack tunnels crossing into Israel and the exchange of fire is expected to continue.

The Israel Air Force struck four Hamas targets in the northern Gaza Strip early Thursday morning, for the second time over the past 24 hours.



Palestinian media said an Islamic Jihad militant group outpost was also targeted, while the Gaza Health Ministry said three children and a 65-year-old Palestinian suffered light-to-moderate injuries in an airstrike that hit a metal workshop in Gaza City.


The airstrike came after senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk declared on Wednesday night that the IDF will pull back from the Gaza border and in return, the different Palestinian factions in the Strip would cease fire after six mortar shells were launched at Israeli troops operating near the border fence throughout the day Wednesday.


"What is happening on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip is an Israeli attempt to set new facts on the ground, over 150 meters away from the border. This is what caused our men to enter this confrontation, to prevent their bulldozers from perpetuating this conduct," Abu Marzouk said.


IDF troops operating along the Gaza border on Wednesday    (צילום: בראל אפרים)

IDF troops operating along the Gaza border on Wednesday


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According to Abu Marzouk, Egypt helped mediate the renewed ceasefire. "Egypt's response was quick and serious and returned the situation to what it was before," he said.


Israel denied on Thursday that it agreed to withdraw from the Gaza security perimeter on the condition that the Palestinians cease to fire at Israeli targets. Senior officials told Ynet that they were unaware of any such agreement.


Earlier, sources in the Gaza Strip reported that the IDF had begun withdrawing its forces from the border area following the Hamas ceasefire announcement, aided by drone covering fire.


While none were hurt on the Israeli side from the mortar shell fire, the IDF responded with tank fire at Hamas military posts throughout the day Wednesday. In the evening hours of Wednesday, the IAF attacked five targets in the southern Gaza Strip in the Dahaniya airport area, near Rafah.


Smoke over the Hamas post the IDF shelled in response to the mortar fire.
Smoke over the Hamas post the IDF shelled in response to the mortar fire.


In light of the escalation on the border, the IDF declared the area from the Sa'ad Junction to the border, near the Gaza City neighborhood of Saja'iyya, a closed military zone. This is a move taken in the area whenever the situation on the border escalates, due to its proximity to the fence, but is still considered an unusual one since Operation Protective Edge.


This was also the first time Hamas has fired into Israel since Operation Protective Edge, after its men vigorously enforced the ceasefire over the past year and a half.


The IDF estimated that the mortar fire throughout the day Wednesday was directly aimed at IDF troops during engineering work in the border fence area in search of any other Hamas tunnels crossing into Israeli territory. These operations are taking place in several different spots along the border since Protective Edge, but it was only over the past 24 hours or so that it garnered a violent response from the Palestinians.


IDF forces operating along the Gaza border (Photo: AFP)
IDF forces operating along the Gaza border (Photo: AFP)


Israeli defense official stressed on Wednesday night that the IDF intends to continue its operations along the border fence, and estimated the mortar fire will continue in the coming days.


Hamas is worried that its most significant strategic asset against Israel, the border-crossing attack tunnels, will be located and destroyed by the IDF in the coming months. This will be done thanks to an Israeli technological breakthrough on the issue, which led to the increase of pressure in the Gaza Strip to stop Israeli operations.


Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, released a statement on Wednesday following the escalation on the border, vowing not to allow Israel to continue its "aggression."


"Israel must leave Gazan territory immediately," the statement said. The Qassam Brigades accused Israel of violating the ceasefire agreement reached at the end of Operation Protective Edge.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 05.05.16, 08:27
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