The Israel Air Force struck a terrorist cell in the northern Gaza Strip that was preparing to plant explosive devices on the border on Wednesday morning, the army said.The air strike followed a joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and air force operation to target the cell, which had attempted to target an IDF unit carrying out border security missions.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said it found a scene which the terrorists had planned to set off against a military unit that was tasked with protecting local residents.According to Palestinian media reports, one Gazan was killed and three others were wounded by the air strike.Hamas on Wednesday warned Israel against continuing its “aggression” against the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel “bears full responsibility for its “aggression.”Meanwhile, Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, praised the Palestinian who was killed in the air strike, Musa Zaiter, 23, from the Jabalya refugee camp. Several hours later, the IDF carried destroyed two bombs left by the cell, in a controlled explosion.The IDF has not raised its overall level of alert and no special instructions have been issued to residents of southern communities following the air strike.MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid), a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, on the border, praised the IDF, saying it “proved once again that it will do everything to ensure that Gaza-border residents can live quietly. Israel must increase its deterrence against Hamas and react with great force against all rocket fire from Gazan territory.No country can ignore terrorism on its citizens.”MK Omer Bar Lev (Zionist Union) said, “In any place where they plant explosives and send terrorists, the security forces will be the first to protect the residents of the State of Israel. Since the days of Operation Protective Edge [in 2014], I have said that the government needs to develop an unequivocal policy, aggressive and clear regarding [Gazan] attack tunnels, which will determine how and when security forces will act if there is concern about tunnels that approach the border, and certainly regarding tunnels that cross it.”This is the first preemptive air strike on a terrorist cell for some time. Early on January 2, the air force struck four Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for two Gazan rockets fired at the Sderot area.The rockets, which were fired by a Salafi-jihadist group according to security assessments in Israel, set off warning sirens throughout the Sderot area, sending residents fleeing for cover. They exploded in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region without causing injury.In the response a few hours later, IAF aircraft struck two Hamas “military” installations and two terrorist infrastructure sites, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said. Khaled Abu Toameh and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.