IDF arrests 3 armed suspects caught crossing Gaza border into Israel

Men found with knife and flammable materials, are questioned and sent back; Hamas member reportedly dies in accidental explosion

An Israeli army jeep patrols on the Israeli Gaza border on March 25, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90
An Israeli army jeep patrols on the Israeli Gaza border on March 25, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90

The army on Tuesday arrested three armed suspects who crossed into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip.

One of the men carried a knife, and at least one other had flammable materials on his person, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

After being questioned on the spot, the men were returned to Gaza, the army said.

Earlier Tuesday, a 34-year-old man died in an explosion near his home in a refugee camp close to Rafah in the Strip, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas terror group’s military wing, reportedly announced the death of one of its fighters after an accidental blast in the area.

Arabic media reports this week said that Israel and Hamas may be inching toward a prisoner exchange deal.

A Lebanese news report on Tuesday said that Hamas was demanding that Israel release 250 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for information on two Israeli captives in the Gaza Strip and on the remains of two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

A separate report on Sunday said that Israel had relayed its willingness to Hamas, by way of Egyptian mediators, to take steps toward a deal.

Hamas on Monday temporarily reopened its Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which had been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gaza has at least 13 COVID-19 infections, all from people returning to the territory or those in contact while in quarantine.

Hamas has imposed a series of measures including closing markets, schools and mosques to stymie the virus.

The United Nations’ Middle East peace envoy on Sunday said the virus was “extremely dangerous” for Gaza and the West Bank.

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