Air force targets Hamas tunnels inside Gaza

After Israeli strikes, Hamas warns ‘escalation won’t bring security’

Weekend attacks from Gaza, including a rocket fired on south, prompt bombing of ‘underground structures’ in northern Strip

Illustrative: A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces across the border fence, during clashes following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces across the border fence, during clashes following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

After Israel struck two targets in northern Gaza on Saturday night, the Hamas terror group, which rules the territory, warned the Jewish state against a “dangerous escalation.”

“The continued acts of folly by the occupation against the peace protesters” along the border fence, “[Israel’s] intentional killing of the protesters, and the fire at Hamas targets are a dangerous escalation, playing with fire, that won’t bring security to the enemy and its settlers,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

Israel “will suffer the consequences,” he warned.

The Israeli military carried out the airstrikes in response to an earlier rocket launch into Israeli territory, capping a weekend that saw deadly violence along the Gaza border.

“IDF fighter jets targeted two of Hamas’ underground structures in the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “We will continue operating to defend Israeli civilians.”

Two targets in Gaza City were hit by the Israeli strikes, but no one was harmed, security sources in Gaza said.

Hamas is believed to have a large network of tunnels crisscrossing the Strip and running close to, or under, the frontier with Israel.

The military holds Hamas, which controls Gaza, responsible for any attacks emanating from the Strip.

The rocket that prompted the airstrikes landed in an open field, the IDF said. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Tamir Idan, mayor of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, called on the government to respond more harshly to rocket launches from Gaza.

A Palestinian carries an injured youth as he runs with others from tear gas fumes during clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

On Friday, some 13,000 Palestinians participated in demonstrations along the fence, with some throwing rocks, firebombs and grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the army said.

A Palestinian woman was killed during the mass riot, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said, as the terror group threatened renewed violence over fresh quarrels with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The ministry identified the woman as Amal Tramsi, 43, saying she was the third woman to die in some nine months of clashes.

The air force attacked two Hamas posts in northern Gaza later Friday in response to that violence, the Israel Defense Forces said.

At least 15 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire during the border riots, one of them reportedly a journalist hurt when an ambulance was struck, the Gaza ministry said.

An Israeli soldier was lightly injured by a rock, the IDF said.

The Israeli army had braced for an outbreak of renewed violence along the Gaza border as tensions escalated between Jerusalem and the Hamas terror group as well as between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

The Egyptian military sent a senior delegation to the Palestinian enclave on Thursday, led by deputy chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Ayman Badia, in an effort to negotiate a settlement on some of the issues and prevent an escalation.

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas stand guard at the Rafah border crossing, in the Southern Gaza Strip on January 8, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The delegation left Gaza on Friday afternoon and traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with the PA.

In recent days, Hamas has ramped up its threats of renewed violence along the Gaza border after Israel halted the transfer of $15 million of Qatari funds to the terror group after an exchange of fire earlier this week. The funds are part of a series of six $15 million deposits Israel is allowing Qatar to deliver to Hamas to compensate for funds the PA has stopped transferring to Gaza in a bid to prevent the collapse of the Gazan economy. The funds are meant ostensibly to pay the group’s civilian workers, though some Israeli officials — including former defense minister Avigdor Liberman — maintain the money will be used for Hamas’s terrorist activities.

Palestinian sources in Gaza this week reported that Hamas is planning to renew incendiary balloon attacks, along with the offensive tactics implemented in the weeks preceding the Qatari cash injection.

A week ago, Hamas officials met with the heads of the “kite unit,” as well as leaders of the group’s so-called “tire unit” and a unit that carries out a variety of operations close to the border under the cover of darkness, such as demonstrations and attempts to damage the fence.

At that meeting, the unit heads received a new budget to prepare for the next round of violence.

Adding to the tensions in Gaza, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have stepped up their ongoing fight for power. This week the PA took the dramatic step of pulling its men from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, effectively closing it, saying that Hamas had been intimidating and harassing their officials.

Avi Issacharoff and agencies contributed to this report.

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