Gaza teen shot during attempted border breach said to die of wounds
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Gaza teen shot during attempted border breach said to die of wounds

IDF says a tank fired at two suspects who attempted to infiltrate into Israeli territory; Hamas-run health ministry reports one succumbed to injuries

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

An IDF tank is seen near the border with Gaza on April 13, 2018 (Sliman Khader/Flash90)
An IDF tank is seen near the border with Gaza on April 13, 2018 (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

A Palestinian teenager the army said was shot while trying to breach the Gaza security fence died of his wounds on Thursday afternoon, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Before dawn on Thursday, Abdel Fattah Abu Azoum, 17, and another Palestinian man attempted to break through the security fence east of Rafah in southern Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“During the night, IDF troops spotted two terrorists crawling toward the security fence in an attempt to infiltrate into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement.

In response, the tank fired toward them and “prevented the infiltration attempt,” the army said.

According to the Gaza health ministry, Azoum sustained a serious head wound. He was taken to a nearby hospital and was pronounced dead several hours later.

Israeli soldiers drag away an injured Palestinian who the army says tried to breach the border fence east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on June 27, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Palestinian Quds news outlet initially reported that the two were seriously injured by the tank fire. Other Gaza-based news sites reported that only one of the suspects was seriously injured.

The military said that when troops later searched the area, they found a number of Molotov cocktails.

Throughout Wednesday, the Israeli military said it thwarted two other border breaches along the Gaza security fence, shooting at the would-be infiltrators and injuring five of them, according to Palestinian media.

The border incidents came less than a day after a flareup between the Israel Defense Forces and terror groups in Gaza in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning. The air force conducted airstrikes in response to numerous arson attacks from the coastal enclave, and the various terrorist organizations in the Strip retaliated by firing more than a dozen rockets into southern Israel.

The first infiltration attempt occurred on Wednesday afternoon in the northern Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, according to the IDF, which said troops shot at them and wounded one suspect, who was taken in for medical treatment followed by questioning. According to Palestinian media, he was 15 years old and said to be in serious condition.

Israeli soldiers carry away an injured Palestinian who the army says tried to breach the border fence east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on June 27, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The second attempted border breach took place on the opposite end of the Gaza Strip, east of Rafah. According to the IDF, soldiers shot a group of three Palestinians who damaged the fence and tried to infiltrate into Israeli territory. Palestinian media reported that four Palestinians, not three, had been injured in the incident. It was not immediately clear what accounted for the discrepancy.

The security situation along the restive Gaza border has been especially tense in recent weeks, owing to a number of significant clashes between the Israeli military and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, notably Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave.

In recent weeks, the military has adopted a policy of targeting Hamas positions in response to repeated incendiary kite and balloon attacks from Gaza in an effort to force the group, which rules the coastal enclave, to stop launching the arson devices and to force others in the Strip to abandon the tactic as well.

However, Hamas has maintained that the near-constant airborne arson attacks, which have burned thousands of acres of Israeli land, do not warrant retaliatory strikes by Israel and therefore accuses Jerusalem of violating the tacit ceasefire between the two sides.

“Bombings will be answered with bombings,” Hamas said after its rocket attacks on Wednesday.

The Israeli military has also carried out multiple warning strikes in recent weeks at groups of Gazans preparing to launch incendiary devices toward Israel. The army has said repeatedly that it will act to prevent the launch of the airborne incendiary devices and explosives.

Palestinians prepare a kite with flammable materials that they will fly into southern Israel from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 22, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched countless kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

Israeli leaders have warned that the military is prepared to take more intense offensive action against the phenomenon.

Israeli leaders have been split on how to respond to those responsible for the airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on sight, while others argue that it would be a step too far.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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