Hamas’s military wing on Thursday threatened retaliation against Israel after one of its fighters was said to have been killed in an airstrike earlier in the day.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades accused Israel of “a heinous crime” after the IDF carried out the strike on a group of Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip, with the strike reportedly killing one person and wounding three others.
“The cowardice enemy’s attack on our fighters’ post, that led to the death of Abdel Karim Ismail Radwan, is a heinous crime and foolishness for which it bears fully responsibility. [Israel] will pay a price with its blood for it,” the Qassam Brigades said in a statement posted on their website.
The IDF said the airstrike was on a group of Gazans who were launching incendiary balloons at southern Israel from near a Hamas observation post. The terrorist organization did not say whether the fighter was involved in the launching of incendiary airborne devices.
In a statement, the IDF said the Palestinians were members of the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Strip. A short time later, the army said Gazans fired two mortar shells at Israeli security forces patrolling the Gaza security fence in the area, causing no casualties.
“Our aircraft carried out an attack on a terror cell launching incendiary balloons near to a Hamas post in southern Gaza,” the army said, adding that it would continue to step up its campaign against the balloon and kite launchers.
Recent months have seen daily arson attacks from Gaza with incendiary kites and balloons that have burned thousands of acres of Israeli forests, farmland, and brush. Some 2,500 acres of nature reserves and national parks have been destroyed.
While most kites and balloons flown into Israel in recent weeks have carried incendiary devices meant to burn Israeli fields and property, some have been attached to makeshift bombs.
Following the strike a projectile was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, causing neither damage nor injury. In response, an IDF tank shelled a nearby Hamas observation post, east of the city of Rafah, the army said.
The projectile attack set off sirens throughout the Eshkol region, east of Gaza, at 4:45 p.m., sending thousands of residents scrambling to bomb shelters, as they have repeatedly in recent weeks.
The projectile landed in an open field next to a cowshed in one of the communities of the largely agrarian Eshkol region, a spokesperson for the local government said. It was not immediately clear if it was a rocket or a mortar shell.
Around the same time, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman held a “situational assessment” meeting regarding the current tensions in the Gaza Strip with members of the Israeli security establishment this afternoon, his office said.