Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) is briefed about the security situation near Gaza, July 29, 2018.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met with senior IDF officials on Sunday to discuss recent violent developments in the Gaza Strip, according to a Defense Ministry statement.
Liberman was briefed on the situation in the Southern Command by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) head Maj.- Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, and members of the Shin Bet security service.
“The defense minister emphasized the readiness of IDF forces along the Gaza border and the need to be prepared for each scenario, in accordance with the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and the conduct of Hamas,” the statement said.
Earlier in the day, two Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza in what the Palestinian Health Ministry said was an IDF drone strike.
Palestinian reports said a drone strike hit a group of men who were near a cemetery east of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. The two Palestinians who were killed were identified as Ayman Nafez Najjar, 24, and Muhannad Jamal Hammouda, 24.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and its armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, released a statement Sunday morning claiming the two men were members of their group and that “they were martyred at dawn in the course of their duty to fight.”
Maj. Avichay Adraee, the head of the Arabic media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, denied the report and accused Hamas of misleading Gazans about the men’s deaths.
“Many testimonies from the Gaza Strip cast doubt on the credibility of the Hamas Health Ministry’s announcement of the death of the two terrorist operatives at midnight,” Adraee wrote on Twitter in Arabic.
“What do you have to hide Hamas? Time and again, Hamas tells you lies and halftruths. Instead of telling the truth and telling you what really happened in the cemetery in Jabalya, they prefer to automatically blame Israel. Let’s challenge the Hamas Health Ministry to find out the real reason for the explosion.”
The incident followed a tense weekend during which three Palestinians – including a 12-year-old boy – were killed in clashes with IDF soldiers along the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, 157 Gazans, including 18 minors and two women have been killed since the beginning of the weekly demonstrations on March 30. An additional 17,000 have been wounded, 400 of them seriously, the ministry said.
On Wednesday, an IDF officer was moderately wounded after being shot by a sniper in the Kissufim area in an ambush after troops arrived to disperse a violent demonstration by 20 Palestinian youths close to the border fence.
Lt. Bar Vaknin was shot just days after St.-Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by sniper fire some 400 meters away.
Liberman visited Vaknin in the hospital on Sunday and vowed to catch the sniper who shot him.
“Just as we promised the family of deceased Ronen Lubarsky, we will bring the perpetrators to justice and settle the score.”
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