Gaza gunfire hits IDF vehicle, prompting tank shelling
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Gaza gunfire hits IDF vehicle, prompting tank shelling

After third attack in four days, Israeli army strikes two Hamas positions in the northern Strip

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. An Israeli tank parks in position overlooking the Gaza Strip on December 25, 2013. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
Illustrative. An Israeli tank parks in position overlooking the Gaza Strip on December 25, 2013. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israeli troops operating near the Gaza security fence came under fire north of the Strip on Thursday, in the third attack in four days, the army said.

No soldiers were reported injured, but an army engineering vehicle was hit by gunfire, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The military responded to the attack by striking two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip.

“In response to the gunfire, An IDF force attacked and destroyed two Hamas positions using [Israeli] Air Force crafts and tank fire,” the army said in a statement.

The Gaza health ministry said it had not received any reports of Palestinian injuries.

According to the Gaza-based Shehab news agency, the targets were Hamas observation posts, north of Beit Lahiya.

Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Ma’an news reported that Israeli troops fired shots toward “lands and homes” in the northern Gaza Strip. An IDF spokesperson said she was “not familiar” with the incident.

The Palestinian outlet also reported that Israeli vehicles had operated on the Gaza side of the security fence on Thursday morning.

The exchange came less than a day after a rocket fired from the coastal enclave struck an open field south of the coastal city of Ashkelon, causing neither injury nor damage. The IDF did not immediately respond to the rocket attack with artillery shelling or airstrikes, as it has done in the past.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Ynet news site in an interview on Thursday that the army was not required to react in the same way after every incident.

“We don’t have to dance to Hamas’s tune,” he said.

The projectile struck the Hof Ashkelon region shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said. Israeli troops located fragments of the rocket on Thursday morning. No terrorist groups immediately took credit for the attack.

Recent weeks have seen a rise in the number of rocket attacks. On Monday, a rocket was launched from Gaza toward the Sha’ar Hanegev region, striking an open field. Hours later, Israeli Air Force jets bombed multiple targets in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

In early February, after a rocket attack that drew Israeli strikes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not tolerate a “drizzle” of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip “without a response.”

“My policy is to respond strongly to any rocket fire,” Netanyahu said. “We are firm in this response.”

Most rocket attacks since the 2014 war have been carried out by radical Salafist groups, not by Hamas. However, Israel holds Hamas, the Sunni terror group that has ruled the coastal enclave for the past 10 years, as ultimately responsible for any rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s military wing threatened Tuesday to retaliate against Israel should it strike Gaza.

“The enemy only understands the language of force, and sometimes silence is interpreted as weakness by the enemy. Therefore, any aggression along the lines of what happened yesterday, the resistance, headed by the Qassam Brigades, will have their say,” Abu Obeida, the official spokesperson of Hamas’s military wing the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades told the terror group’s Al Aqsa TV station.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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