Israel hits back twice after mortar volley from Gaza

No casualties or damage in Israel; three reported hurt in Gaza in retaliatory strike

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli planes hit Gaza in two separate sorties Thursday morning, hours after Palestinians shot three mortar rounds at IDF troops patrolling near the border fence.

All three shells exploded near the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in the southern Eshkol region. There were no injuries or damage.

The Israel Defense Forces said it hit a terror cell near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip just before noon. There were no reports of injuries.

Earlier in the day planes struck a group of people on a three-wheeled vehicle, injuring three, according to Palestinian sources.

The army said it had “intercepted terrorists during their final preparations to launch rockets toward Israel.”

It added that it held the Strip’s Hamas rulers responsible for the attack.

“This ongoing conflict that we are facing on a daily basis cannot be endured by Israeli civilians,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “It is the IDF’s obligation to operate to the best of its abilities to prevent such malicious terroristic intentions from terrorizing Israeli civilians and assaulting IDF soldiers. We will continue in our activities to deter all threats originating from the Gaza Strip.”

The cross border flare-up comes amid several weeks of renewed violence along the border.

On Wednesday, Palestinians said Israeli forces had killed an Islamic Jihad operative in Gaza. Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the man, Mohammed al-Ejlla, was killed in an Israeli attack. The AFP news agency quoted family and medical sources saying he had been “torn apart” in a drone attack.

But the Israeli military denied responsibility. “We did not strike in Gaza today,” an IDF spokesperson said, “and we are unaware of any incident involving tanks or other shooting.”

Al-Kidra said 33-year-old al-Ejlla was killed near the border with Israel. He said two teenagers were slightly injured in the incident. Islamic Jihad confirmed that al-Ejlla was one of its fighters.

On Monday, a rocket launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip exploded in the Negev, also without causing casualties or damage.

The fragments of the projectile, which exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council, were found on Monday evening.

On Friday, the Israeli Air Force struck four targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a rocket fired Thursday from Gaza at the western Negev region. No one was hurt in the explosion.

Also on Friday, a teenager shot by Israeli troops in Gaza died of his wounds, according to Palestinian medical sources. The 16-year-old died from gunshot wounds sustained Thursday after he and several other Palestinians approached the security fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip and tried to damage it, according to Israeli reports.

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