An explosion is seen following an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip July 20, 2018.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
The IDF shelled seven Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip with tank and artillery fire on Wednesday night, after an officer was moderately wounded by sniper fire on the Gaza border near Kibbutz Kissufim.
The officer, who was struck less than a week after an IDF soldier was killed by sniper fire in the same area, was evacuated by helicopter to Beersheba’s Soroka hospital.
The incident along the Gaza border occurred after some 20 Palestinian youth began violently demonstrating 400 meters from the border fence. When an IDF force arrived to disperse the youth, a sniper targeted the soldier.
While the IDF believes that the ambush was not carried out with Hamas’s approval, as per policy, it holds the terrorist group responsible for all events occurring in the Strip.
In response, the IDF struck seven Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip with tank and artillery fire.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported four casualties, all members of Hamas, and several injuries.
Hamas said “the scale of the Zionist escalation on Gaza and the deliberate targeting of the resisters reflect the intention of the occupation to kill, and proves that the leadership of the occupation is a bloody criminal [sic].”
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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a special security meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and other senior IDF and defense establishment officials at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the unfolding security situation in the South.
Shortly after the IDF tank fire, incoming rocket sirens were activated in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, sending Israelis into bomb shelters. The IDF later said that it was a false alarm.
The incident came four days after IDF soldier Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by Palestinian sniper fire
in the same area along the Gaza border.
Described as the most serious incident along the border fence since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Levi was the first to be killed by a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip in four years. In response the IDF carried out massive retaliatory strikes against Hamas targets in the coastal enclave.
According to the IDF, more than 60 Hamas targets were struck in response, including three battalion headquarters. Other targets included weapons stores, combat equipment warehouses, training areas, observation posts, command and control rooms, a battalion commander’s office, and other infrastructures.
On Friday morning, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Hamas is pushing Israel into a Gaza war that will be larger in scope than Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“Hamas leaders are forcibly leading us into a situation where we will have no choice, a situation in which we will have to embark on a painful, wide-scale military operation,” Liberman said as he visited the southern city of Sderot.
“Hamas is responsible for this crisis, but unfortunately it’s the Gaza residents that may have to pay the price,” he noted.
Tensions with Gaza have significantly risen following a flareup of violence two weeks ago when Hamas launched 200 mortars and rockets into the South, and Israel struck more than 40 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip
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