Palestinian protesters wave their national flag as they gather during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 10, 2018.
(photo credit: SAID KHATIB / AFP)
The Israel Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation for incendiary aerial devices being launched into southern Israel, one day after three Palestinians were killed during violent protests along the border fence.
According to Palestinian reports, three men were lightly injured by the strikes which occurred east of the al-Bureij refugee camp and by two strikes east of Gaza City.
Earlier in the day, an arson balloon was found outside the dining room of a community in the Eshkol Regional Council, as well as a large incendiary kite which landed on power lines near Kibbutz Sufa, briefly cutting power before employees from the Israel Electric Corporation removed the large kite.
The device was discovered during a fragile cease-fire agreed to by Israel and Hamas. The agreement was reached after another round of escalating violence along the border, in which more than 200 rockets and mortars launched by the terrorist group.
That led to the destruction by the IAF on Wednesday and Thursday of 150 Hamas military and strategic sites.
Eshkol Council head Gadi Yarkoni criticized the cease-fire, saying, “Returning to normal in the Gaza border communities means returning to incendiary balloons and fires. We won’t in any way accept this threat as legitimate daily routine, which happened with the Qassam rocket fire.”
According to Palestinian reports, an IDF soldier shot and killed a paramedic on Friday while the man was providing medical attention to injured rioters east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. A 55-year-old man was killed and another succumbed to wounds he sustained during the demonstrations on Friday.
Another 307 demonstrators were wounded.
A journalist was also said to have been wounded by Israeli fire.
Protesters marked the 20th week of the “March of Return,” with five riots along the border on Friday, throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, burning tires and launching incendiary kites that caused at least six fires.
According to the IDF, 9,000 rioters gathered along the border fence and threw stones, Molotov cocktails and other explosives.
The military also reported an attempt was made to breach the fence, but the suspect immediately backtracked into the Gaza Strip. Later in the day, an IDF tank attacked a Hamas position in the northern Gaza Strip in response to a grenade being thrown at IDF forces. No Israeli soldiers were injured.
The deadly riots began 12 hours into the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire was said to have been agreed upon by the two sides following Egyptian and UN mediation. However, Hamas vowed that the weekly demonstrations would continue.
“Every time the Israeli killing machine tries to break the strength and will of our people to continue its struggle, every time it will fail,” said a Hamas spokesman.
A combination of terrorist tunnels, riots, attempted infiltrations and the use of incendiary devices have led to the protests along the border being dubbed as the greatest threat to Israeli security in the region since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 167 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly Friday protests began. On July 20, an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper firing from Gaza. Another officer was moderately wounded by a sniper near Kibbutz Kissufim after troops arrived to disperse a violent demonstration by 20 Palestinian youths close to the border fence.
Last Tuesday, IDF troops killed two Hamas snipers after the military mistakenly thought troops near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip were being fired upon.
Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of the army’s Southern Command, subsequently acknowledged the shooting was not targeting the army’s troops, and concluded the IDF strike was made in error. The gunmen, part of Hamas’s naval commando unit, were not shooting at a border fence patrolled by the Rotem Battalion of the Givati Infantry Brigade – as the army believed in real-time – but were participating in a drill that was being observed by senior Hamas leaders.
Following the incident and in light of threats made by Hamas, the IDF closed Rte. 25 and several service roads near the Gaza border.
“In light of Hamas statements and the evacuation of Hamas outposts, the Southern Command decided to increase readiness and to close a number of roadways in the Gaza periphery,” read the statement released by the IDF Spokesman’s Unit.
Despite the significant barrage of projectiles fired on Wednesday and Thursday, the army lifted all restrictions on Israeli residents in the South except for closing the roads along the border, out of fear that Hamas snipers would target passing vehicles.
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