After late-night border violence, suspected explosives found in field near Gaza

Police sapper called to remove balloon-borne device that touched down in farmlands in southern Sha’ar Hanegev region

A suspected explosive device connected to a cluster of balloons from the Gaza Strip, which landed in a field in southern Israel on March 24, 2019. (Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council)
A suspected explosive device connected to a cluster of balloons from the Gaza Strip, which landed in a field in southern Israel on March 24, 2019. (Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council)

A suspected explosive device landed Sunday morning in a field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, near the Gaza Strip, following a particularly violent evening in the coastal enclave.

A police sapper was called to the scene to remove the object, which was flown into Israel from Gaza by a cluster of balloons.

The device caused neither injuries nor damage, a Sha’ar Hanegev spokesperson said.

On Saturday night, Israeli military aircraft bombed Hamas targets in Gaza after a rocket alarm sounded in some Israeli communities bordering the Strip, triggered by a powerful improvised bomb thrown at the border during late-night riots.

A Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during the clashes early Sunday, authorities in the Strip said. The 24-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest and two others were wounded, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

There was no immediate comment or confirmation by the military.

The Israel Defense Forces said aircraft struck two Hamas reconnaissance posts in response to “the multitude of explosive devices that were thrown and exploded during the night.”

Palestinians prepare explosive devices that they will use at a night protest on the Israeli border at a house in al-Bureij, Gaza. March 7, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Nighttime riots in Gaza have been led by so-called “confusion units” organized by the Hamas terror group, the Strip’s de facto ruler. On Saturday, the units said they would step up activities, with a week of nightly riots from 7 p.m. until dawn along the border and more airborne incendiary devices launched into Israel. They said the move was in response to the deaths of two Palestinians shot by troops during border riots Friday.

During the nightly demonstrations, participants regularly set off loud explosives or sound grenades, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence.

Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Earlier Saturday, Israeli military aircraft launched a pair of strikes at Palestinian cells flying incendiary balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israel, the army said. Four Palestinians were injured in the strikes.

On Friday, several thousand Palestinians took part in violent protests on the Gaza-Israel border, throwing explosive devices and rocks at Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Palestinians riot on the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City on March 22, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

There are fears that violence will ramp up this week, with Hamas hoping to draw hundreds of thousands of rioters to the fence at the weekend to mark a year of so-called March of Return protests, which began March 30, 2018.

Israel says the demonstrations are orchestrated by Hamas in order to provide cover for the organization’s nefarious activities along the security fence, including infiltration attempts, the planting of explosives and attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials say the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

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