Palestinian woman said killed as 13,000 riot at Gaza fence; IAF hits Hamas posts
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Palestinian woman said killed as 13,000 riot at Gaza fence; IAF hits Hamas posts

Egypt tries to soothe tensions as Strip’s terrorist rulers step up threats of attacks, calling for Israel to let in Qatari cash and for Cairo to reopen Rafah crossing

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

Palestinians climb on the Gaza border fence during riots on Friday January, 11, 2019 (Screencapture/Hadashot news)
Palestinians climb on the Gaza border fence during riots on Friday January, 11, 2019 (Screencapture/Hadashot news)

A Palestinian woman was shot dead by IDF troops during a mass riot along the Gaza border with Israel on Friday, the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry said, as the Hamas terror group threatened renewed violence over fresh quarrels with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The air force attacked two Hamas posts in northern Gaza in response to violence, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said some 13,000 Palestinians participated in the riots along the fence, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand-grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry identified the dead woman as Amal Tramsi, 43, saying she was the third woman to die in months of clashes.

At least 15 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire during the border riots, the ministry said. One of them was reportedly a journalist, hurt when an ambulance was hit.

An Israeli soldier was lightly injured by a rock, the IDF said.

A Palestinian carries an injured youth as he runs with others from tear gas fumes during clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The army said it identified several incidents where Palestinians tried to breach the fence and in one instance opened fire on them.

“IDF troops monitored the suspects in each incident and all the suspects returned to the Gaza Strip soon after crossing,” the army said. “In response to the violent events along the security fence, an IDF aircraft targeted a Hamas military post.”

Aircraft later hit a second post.

The army said one soldier was lightly wounded by stone throwers and taken to hospital for treatment.

Palestinian protesters run through tear gas fumes during clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Israeli army had braced for an outbreak of renewed violence along the Gaza border, as tensions escalated between Jerusalem and the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip as well as between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

The Egyptian military sent a senior delegation to the Palestinian enclave on Thursday, led by deputy chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Ayman Badia, in an effort to negotiate a settlement on some of the issues and prevent an escalation.

The delegation left Gaza on Friday afternoon and traveled to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with the PA.

Throughout the morning, Palestinians along the border launched balloons laden with incendiary devices across the border into Israel. As of Friday afternoon, they had caused no significant damage.

However, more serious clashes with Israeli troops began later in the day, following afternoon prayers, as has been the case since March 2018, with the start of the “March of Return” protests, an initially civilian-led movement that was quickly hijacked by Hamas. An Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

As it does every week, the Israel Defense Forces deployed troops along the border ahead of Friday’s riots. No special safety instructions were given to  Israeli communities near the border.

Israeli soldiers take cover near the Israel-Gaza border, November 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Last Friday, some 10,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests along the Gaza border, burning tires and hurling rocks and explosive devices at IDF soldiers on the other side of the fence. Fifteen people were reported wounded by live fire.

The army said it foiled two attempts to breach the border fence and responded to the demonstrators with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Photos from the Gaza side of the border showed several youths trying to climb over the fence.

Palestinians run from falling tear gas canisters during clashes following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 4, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In recent days, Hamas has ramped up its threats of renewed violence along the Gaza border after Israel halted the transfer of $15 million of Qatari funds to the terror group after an exchange of fire earlier this week. The funds are part of a series of six $15 million deposits Israel is allowing Qatar to deliver to Hamas as part of a highly contentious ceasefire agreement. The funds are meant ostensibly to pay the group’s civilian workers, though some Israeli officials — including former defense minister Avigdor Liberman — maintain the money will be used for Hamas’s terrorist activities.

Last week’s clash began when Palestinian terrorists flew an explosive device into Israeli territory from Gaza. The device exploded as it was being searched by a bomb disposal robot, police said.

A police bomb disposal robot carries away a drone-shaped device from the Gaza Strip, borne by dozens of helium balloons, which landed in a carrot field in southern Israel on January 6 ,2019. (Israel Police)

Responding to the airborne explosive attack, Israel struck a number of Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip. Hours later, terrorists in the Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The Israel Defense Forces then carried out a second round of airstrikes in Gaza.

In light of the incident and the subsequent delay in transferring the Qatari money, Hamas threatened to bring back the border violence that it has refrained from employing in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the “Supreme National Authority for the March of Return and Breaking of the Siege,” the body officially behind the weekly border riots, called on the Palestinian public to participate in marches along the fence on Friday.

Palestinian sources in Gaza this week reported that Hamas is planning to renew incendiary balloon attacks, along with the offensive tactics implemented in the weeks preceding the Qatari cash injection.

A week ago, Hamas officials met with the heads of the “kite unit,” as well as leaders of the group’s so-called “tire unit” and a unit that carries out a variety of operations close to the border under the cover of darkness, such as demonstrations and attempts to damage the fence.

At that meeting, the unit heads received a new budget to prepare for the next round of violence.

Adding to the tensions in Gaza, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have stepped up their ongoing fight for power. This week the PA took the dramatic step of pulling its men from the Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt, effectively closing it, saying that Hamas had been intimidating and harassing their officials.

Palestinians sit waiting at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 8, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Hamas quickly sent its own men to reopen the crossing. However, Cairo refused to allow Palestinians to enter Egypt through the crossing. Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said in a statement late Monday that Egyptian authorities had informed it that the crossing “will be limited to only the arrival of individuals and the entry of goods” into the Strip.

Badia’s delegation to Gaza on Thursday and Friday worked to resolve this issue between Hamas and the PA.

Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas, told journalists on Thursday that the Egyptians “assured us that there will be no changes at the Rafah border, and it will stay open” despite the personnel change.

There was no official confirmation from Egypt, which hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear when the crossing would fully reopen.

The PA had taken control of the Rafah crossing in November 2017, as part of a deal for Egypt to reopen the border, which had been entirely shut since August of that year and largely sealed for years before that.

Israeli officials reportedly lobbied for Cairo to reopen the crossing, fearing keeping the crossing with Egypt closed could lead to a buildup of pressure in Gaza that would turn against the Jewish state. This would also serve as a significant blow to the PA, which would lose one of the few areas of control it still has in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Egyptian officials were quoted in a report Thursday in the Qatari al-Araby al-Jadid newspaper as saying that the Israeli defense establishment “is concerned that squeezing the Gaza Strip will turn the attention of the Palestinian factions toward” Israel.

Hayya said he expected that all sides would stick to an informal truce agreement with Israel.

Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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