Amid border clashes, IDF denies mortar shell fired from Gaza
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Amid border clashes, IDF denies mortar shell fired from Gaza

Palestinian rioters hurl explosive devices at security fence, Israeli troops, a day after soldier moderately injured in similar clashes

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

Palestinian rioters take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Palestinian rioters take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip rioted along the border with Israel on Monday, throwing dozens of explosive devices at the security fence and apparently sparking false reports of a mortar attack.

At least seven Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunfire, to varying degrees, in the clashes, according to the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Dozens of rioters — members of so-called “confusion units” — took part in the clashes, east of Gaza City, burning tires, setting off dozens of explosive devices, shining lasers at Israeli soldiers across the border to blind them, and attempting to breach the security fence.

During the clashes, around 9 p.m., the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, across from Gaza City, reported that a mortar shell had been fired from the Strip, hitting an empty field.

Minutes later, the local government retracted the claim, and the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that no projectile had been fired.

“Despite the reports, no projectile was launched from the [Gaza] Strip at Israeli territory,” the IDF said.

The Palestinian “confusion units” returned to the Gaza border earlier this month after several months of refraining from evening riots, leading nightly clashes with Israeli troops focused on disorientation, alongside fires, explosives, lasers and infiltration attempts.

Monday’s nighttime clashes came a day after an IDF soldier was moderately injured in clashes along the northern Gaza border and two days after an attack lightly wounded a Border Police officer, the army said.

The IDF believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an as-yet-undiscovered tunnel, or a similar low-level but significant attack.

In light of this view, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, called for the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian protesters run toward the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. An Israeli military vehicle is pictured on the other side of the fence. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, and periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flareups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

Earlier this month, Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

Adam Rasgon, Times of Israel staff, and AFP contributed to this report.

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