Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City December 16, 2018. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Gaza gunmen opened fire on IDF troops entering the Hamas-run coastal enclave near the southern city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian media reported early Monday.
According to the reports, some 20 members of the army’s Special Forces entered 100 meters into the Strip near Khuza’a outside of Khan Yunis before they were engaged by terrorists and forced to retreat into Israel.
There were no reported injuries or casualties.
In November, an IDF lieutenant-colonel was killed and another officer was moderately wounded after a firefight erupted with Palestinian terrorists during a special operation in Khan Yunis. Six Hamas gunmen including Khan Yunis commander Nur Barakeh were also killed in the firefight.
While the Israeli military has kept most details of the operation under gag order, according to Hamas, the IDF troops were in the Strip trying to plant listening devices. Following the raid, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired close to 500 mortars and rockets into Israel, killing one man and injuring close to a hundred others.
The reported clash on Monday came shortly after a Qatari delegation led by envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrived in the Strip to deliver $15 million in funds as part of a ceasefire arrangement to keep a fragile calm between Israel and Hamas.
Some $10 million of the funds are set to be distributed to poor families in Gaza, while another $5 million are to be used to fund UN-run employment programs.
Tensions have increased along the Gaza border in recent weeks, with incendiary balloons continuing to be launched toward southern Israel, causing dozens of fires to break out. In response, Israel has imposed a rare full closure of the Gaza Strip fishing zone, which in turn led to terrorist groups in the Strip firing two rockets toward southern communities, one of which struck a yeshiva in Sderot.
In response, Israel struck several Hamas military targets in Gaza.
On Sunday, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh was reported to have told the United Nations Special Envoy for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov that he did not know who was responsible for firing the rockets at Israel.
Haniyeh was quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat as telling Mladenov that Hamas was investigating, stressing that “no faction fired toward Israel” in the past week.
While no group has taken responsibility for the rocket fire, the Israeli military holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from the coastal enclave.
The rocket fire last week was the first such attack in over a month, since a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip after a deadly round of violence saw close to 700 rockets fired killing four Israelis. The retaliatory Israeli strikes killed 25 Palestinians.
According to reports, the ceasefire agreement includes, among other things, that Hamas stops the violence along the border fence; maintains a 300-meter buffer between protesters and the fence; and ends the launching of incendiary and explosive balloons toward Israeli communities.
Israel in return would reopen the fishing zone and border crossings, allow the transfer of Qatari money to enable UN cash-for-work programs, and open negotiations on such things as healthcare and electricity.
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