An Israeli air force F-15 fighter jet flies during an exhibition as part of the graduation ceremony of air force pilots at Hatzerim air base in southern Israel.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The Israel Air Force struck a target in the southern Gaza Strip late Saturday night after several Palestinians infiltrated Israel and slightly damaged equipment being used to build an underground barrier with the Hamas-run enclave.
“The incident that took place last night – damaging the security fence and an attempt to set fire to engineering vehicles – is another serious incident in a sequence of events in the fence area,” the IDF said in a statement.
The statement said the air strike targeted a Hamas training camp in Rafiah. According to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, the IAF struck the target with three missiles, destroying it.
No casualties were reported.
The strike came hours after four Palestinians infiltrated into Israel near Kibbutz Kissufim and attempted to set fire to the heavy engineering equipment that is being used to construct Israel’s barrier with the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s military has been investing extensive effort in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza and has been building a ground-breaking underground barrier across the entire border with the Strip. Construction of the barrier is expected to cost more than three billion shekels and be completed by the end of 2019.
IDF Foils Terror Tunnel Renovation Effort in Gaza, March 18, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Uint)
A video aired by Al Jazeera showed the group, including a fifth individual, cut the security fence before sprinting to a mound of earth that concealed the equipment, which was unguarded. No work was being done on the site because of Shabbat.
Shortly after they reach the equipment, smoke can be seen coming from of the area. Four of the men are then seen running back towards the Gaza Strip after they see IDF troops approaching the area.
Only minor damage was caused to the machinery.
While Palestinians routinely infiltrate into Israel from the Strip, the army stated that it viewed this infiltration as severe compared to the others.
The incident also comes one week before Palestinians will be marking Land Day, with thousands of Gazans expected to set up several tent cities as close as they can to the border fence and to remain there until Nakba Day on May 15.
In the statement, the IDF “warned of any incidents in which civilians are called to hold ‘protests’ used as cover to damage security infrastructure and to attempts to hurt Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers.”
While the security establishment does not believe that Hamas currently seeks another war, the situation is fragile, especially given the worsening conditions in the Strip. Gazans have been demonstrating at the border fence with Israel each Friday in recent months. The army believes Hamas uses these weekly demonstrations as cover to carry out terrorist attacks.
During the demonstrations, some of which have become riots, Palestinians have also planted several improvised explosive devices along the fence. One such device was hidden inside a flag pole and detonated in mid-February, seriously injuring four IDF soldiers.
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