Army strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits Israeli territory
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Army strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits Israeli territory

No reports of casualties as jets bomb facilities; earlier thousands protest along the border and 2 armed men are caught after infiltrating into Israel

A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows smoke rising above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike.  (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows smoke rising above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

The Israeli Air Force carried out several strikes in the southern and northern Gaza Strip Friday night, hours after a rocket fired from the territory exploded in Israeli territory.

The army said jets struck a Hamas military base in the south of the territory and underground infrastructure in the north. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

None were hurt by the earlier projectile attack. The launch set off rocket warning sirens in the Eshkol Regional Council, where Hebrew media reports said it fell in an open field.

The incident came after thousands of Palestinians rioted along the Gaza border and two men who the IDF said were carrying a knife and a hand grenade were arrested after crossing into Israel from the northern strip.

The two infiltrators who broke through the security fence evaded capture for approximately half an hour, forcing the Israel Defense Forces to bring additional troops to the area and local communities to go on high alert and call up their volunteer security forces. Upon their capture the two were found to be carrying a hand grenade and a knife.

During the border clashes, Palestinians threw rocks and improvised explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli troops responded to the estimated 8,000 with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the military said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that one person was killed and at least 48 Palestinians had been injured by Israeli fire.

Israeli troops respond to an infiltration by two Palestinian men from the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2019. (Yediot Mehashetah)

Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 23-year-old Tamer Arafat succumbed to his wounds after being shot in the head.

The violence came amid a period of heightened tensions in the region of the coastal enclave as Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group exchanged fire as well as verbal threats.

Friday’s clashes were part of what Palestinians call the “March of Return,” a series of regular demonstrations along the security fence that have been held since March 30, 2018.

Palestinians say these protests are typically peaceful in nature and call for their right to return to their family homes in Israel and the West Bank (much of Gaza’s population is made up of refugees from the 1948 War of Independence) and for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the enclave, which the two countries say is necessary to prevent terror groups from easily importing weapons and materiel.

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

Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence along the border, with Palestinians launching balloon-borne explosive devices into Israel, causing damage and threatening the safety of Israelis living nearby.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel would respond harshly to any further violence emanating from the Strip.

AFP contributed to this report.

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