Bombs set off along Gaza fence, causing no injury; IDF tanks, aircraft retaliate
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Bombs set off along Gaza fence, causing no injury; IDF tanks, aircraft retaliate

Army says it targeted terrorist positions in response to attack along border of northern Gaza Strip; conflicting reports emerge about Palestinian casualties

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

Illustrative: Israeli forces next to the security fence on the border between Israel and southern Gaza Strip. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli forces next to the security fence on the border between Israel and southern Gaza Strip. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Two improvised explosive devices were detonated as a military patrol vehicle drove by the security fence surrounding the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, prompting the Israel Defense Forces to retaliate with tank fire, the army said.

There were no Israeli injuries reported in the IED attack. The army would not immediately comment on how close Israeli troops were to the blast.

The IDF later said that an anti-tank missile appeared to have been fired at the patrol, but that it was still confirming this assessment.

It was not immediately clear which terrorist group in the Gaza Strip set off the explosives.

However, in accordance with its policy of holding the Hamas terrorist group, which rules the Strip, responsible for any act of violence emanating from the coastal enclave, the army said it targeted several of the organization’s military positions.

“IDF troops retaliated by firing from a tank at positions belonging to the Hamas terrorist group,” the army said.

The military later clarified that in addition to striking Hamas targets, it hit a site belonging to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

In total, the army said it struck five terrorist positions in Gaza.

It was not immediately clear if the Israeli shelling caused any Palestinian casualties. Some local outlets reported that two people, presumably Hamas members, were killed, while others said this was incorrect.

On Twitter, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry called on local officials to notify it of anyone injured or killed.

Palestinian media reported that the targets were Hamas observation sites near Gaza City and Beit Hanoun, in the northern Strip.

A video apparently from Beit Hanoun showed the moment an Israeli bomb hit a target, sending smoke and debris into the air.

Improvised explosive devices have long been a concern for the IDF in Gaza, as they are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and can be set off from afar. In light of the threat, the army has a number of protocols for how to deal with suspicious objects near the security fence so explosives can be disarmed or destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Last month, four IDF soldiers were injured when an IED was detonated along the southern Gaza fence.

During a violent protest, members of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees umbrella terrorist group approached the border fence and placed a Palestinian flag on it. The following day, when IDF troops from the Golani Brigade and the Combat Engineering Corps approached the fence to remove the flag, an IED detonated, wounding the soldiers, two of them seriously.

In response to that attack, and to a rocket fired from Gaza that hit a home in southern Israel late Saturday night, the IDF conducted a series of strikes against 18 targets in the Strip, including on an attack tunnel entrance in Gaza City, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time.

Following February’s IED attack, senior defense officials have released public statements in Arabic and Hebrew aimed at Gaza’s population, warning residents not to approach the fence.

The IDF reportedly eased the open-fire regulations in response to the heightened tensions, allowing soldiers to use lethal fire to prevent similar approaches to the border fence in future. Snipers have also been stationed along the border for that purpose, along with other forces.

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