Air Force hits Gaza gunmen after they shoot at plane, trigger rocket sirens

Palestinians say Hamas man killed in strike; Israel earlier targeted a Hamas facility after Palestinians detonated bomb near military bulldozer

Illustrative: Israeli security forces face protesters near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom on the border with the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

Israeli Air Force aircraft bombed a team of Palestinian gunmen early Thursday, after they directed machine gun fire at an IAF aircraft. The gunfire missed the plane, but set off rocket sirens in Israeli communities near Gaza, the army said.

One of the Hamas operatives was killed in the strike, and another was seriously wounded, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave. The terrorist group said the dead man was one of its fighters manning an observation point east of Gaza City, in the north of the Strip.

The Hamas gunmen’s attack on the aircraft came shortly after IAF fighter jets conducted an airstrike against one of the terrorist group’s positions in northern Gaza late Wednesday night, in retaliation for a bomb detonated by Palestinians against an Israeli bulldozer in the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day, which had caused neither injury nor damage, the army said.

The Israeli aircraft was not hit by the gunfire and sustained no damage.

Damage to the roof of an Israeli house in the Shaar Hanegev region, near Gaza, that was caused by gunfire from the coastal enclave on April 12, 2018. (Shaar Hanegev regional council)

Some of the bullets fired by the Hamas gunmen at the plane struck a house in the Sha’ar Hanegev region when they fell back to earth, causing light damage but no injury.

The false rocket sirens that were set off by the gunfire in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils bordering the Gaza Strip sent thousands of Israelis scrambling to bomb shelters in the middle of the night.

The Israeli house that was hit appeared to sustain light damage to the roof and internal ceiling.

Damage to the roof of an Israeli house in the Shaar Hanegev region, near Gaza, that was caused by gunfire from the coastal enclave on April 12, 2018. (Shaar Hanegev regional council)

A similar false alarm occurred last month, with machine gun fire from Gaza triggering not only sirens, but also the anti-rocket Iron Dome missile defense battery due to the system’s “oversensitivity,” the army said at the time.

The target of Wednesday’s initial airstrike was a military site belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian media later identified it as the “Abu Jarad” base south of Gaza City.

“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 to into a combat zone,” the army said in a statement.

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)

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 that was made to look like a flagstaff, which was 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.

Defense analysts say the marches are 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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