Air force strikes Gaza as rocket sirens ring in Israeli border towns
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Air force strikes Gaza as rocket sirens ring in Israeli border towns

Sorties come after Palestinians detonate explosive device near IDF vehicle on border; army says it holds Hamas responsible for all security incidents

Israeli forces are deployed near Kibbutz Nir Oz at the Gaza-Israel border amid smoke from tires burned by Palestinians near Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Israeli forces are deployed near Kibbutz Nir Oz at the Gaza-Israel border amid smoke from tires burned by Palestinians near Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Israel carried out an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip late Wednesday night, the army said, as rocket sirens sounded throughout several Israeli towns and communities bordering the Hamas-controlled territory.

The Israel Defense Forces said the strike targeted a military site belonging to Hamas. It came in response to a bomb detonated by Palestinians near an Israeli construction vehicle by the border in northern Gaza earlier Wednesday, which had caused neither injury nor damage.

“The IDF views the Hamas terrorist organization as responsible for all incidents that take place in the Strip or coming from it and will not allow a terrorist group to turn the border area into a combat zone,” the army said in a statement.

Palestinian media reported that the target of the strike was the “Abu Jarad” base south of Gaza City.

This was Israel’s second retaliation to Wednesday’s IED attack. Immediately after the blast, the army also targeted several Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip with tank fire.

Minutes after the army confirmed the airstrike, rocket sirens were activated in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils bordering Gaza, sending thousands of families running for bomb shelters.

After investigating, the army said no rockets were launched, and that machine gun fire directed at Israeli jets had set off the alarms. A similar situation occurred last month.

Recent months have seen an increase in the number of IED attacks along the Gaza border. In February, four soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, when a Palestinian terrorist group detonated a bomb made to look like a flagstaff which had been fixed to the security fence.

Gazans have conducted a series of protests on the Israeli border in recent weeks, which have repeatedly descended into violence and seen some 30 Palestinian protesters shot dead after approaching the Israeli fence. Palestinian activists have insisted the protests are civilian-led and nonviolent, while Israel has said they have been used as cover for attempts at violence against Israeli troops and efforts to breach and damage the border.

Some Israeli defense analysts say the marches are part of a new tactic by Hamas to conduct terror operations in the confusion of the demonstrations, as the group’s rockets have been thwarted by Israel’s Iron Dome and its tunnels have been countered with a new underground barrier being constructed around Gaza.

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