IDF strikes Hamas posts following rocket launch, violent clashes

Qatar envoy expected to arrive in coastal enclave today in attempt to calm tensions.

Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli air strike at an under-construction seaport in the southern Gaza Strip March 7, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli air strike at an under-construction seaport in the southern Gaza Strip March 7, 2019
Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi is expected to arrive in Gaza on Sunday, as diplomatic efforts to tamp down tension in the region continue.
Since November, Qatar has transferred – with Israel’s approval – three tranches of some $15 million a month to pay salaries and stipends to poor families.
Al-Emadi’s expected visit, reported on Saturday in the Palestinian media, follows a visit to the area last week by an Egyptian delegation led by intelligence officers.
A projectile landed in open territory in Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council on Saturday night. This occurred several hours after Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday night in retaliation for a different projectile that was fired toward southern Israel, the IDF said.
The IDF said that fighter planes and other aircraft attacked a number of terrorist targets in the Hamas military compound, as well as underground infrastructures in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
The targets reportedly included a naval facility near Sudaniya, a naval facility in Khan Yunis, and two sites in Zeytoun and Tuffah in Gaza City.
There were no reports of casualties.
The strike was “carried out in response to the launching of a rocket into Israel earlier this evening, as well as the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip including [the launching of] balloons and attempts to damage security infrastructures in recent days,” the military said in a statement.
“The IDF views with great severity any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and will continue to act vigorously against these terrorist acts,” the statement continued, adding that Hamas “bears responsibility for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip.”
The rocket launch and retaliatory strike came after a day of intense clashes between IDF forces and some 8,000 Palestinian protesters marking the 50th week of the Great Return March protests.
The protests, which began on March 30, have seen hundreds of thousands of Gazans violently demonstrate along the security fence with Israel, demanding an end to the 12-year blockade of the coastal enclave.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that one Palestinian – 23-year-old Tamer Khaled Mustafa Arfat – was killed and 48 others were injured by IDF fire, including two women and 15 youths. Another four paramedics and two journalists were also reported injured.
During the protests, two Palestinians infiltrated into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, leading the military to close several local roads and deploy troops to communities that were put on alert. The two men were later arrested by troops and were found to be armed with a knife and grenade, the military said.
Three clusters of explosive balloons carrying large objects were discovered on Friday in open fields within the council’s area. One cluster carried a scarecrow while another carried a toy drone.
In the month leading up to the anniversary, there has been a marked increase of Hamas-led violence along the border, during the day and at night, with explosive balloons and improvised explosive devices hurled at troops or placed on the fence.
During violent riots on Wednesday night, an incoming-rocket siren was activated in communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council that borders the Gaza Strip, after rioters attempted to throw explosive devices at troops stationed along the border.
There were no injuries or damage.
About an hour later, additional incoming-rocket sirens were activated after a mortar was fired toward communities in the Eshkol Regional Council.
In response, Israeli warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip, which according to Palestinian media, destroyed a Hamas naval commando base and damaged several nearby homes. There were no injuries reported.
Hagay HaCohen contributed to this report.