Machine gun fire aimed at jets hits homes in Sderot

IDF strikes Hamas targets in Gaza in response to shooting of soldier at border

Military says it has further bolstered troops in the area following border riots, during which the officer was critically wounded

A site in central Gaza is struck by Israeli aircraft, on August 21, 2021. (Video screenshot)
A site in central Gaza is struck by Israeli aircraft, on August 21, 2021. (Video screenshot)

Israeli airstrikes hit four Hamas weapons storage sites in the Gaza Strip late Saturday evening in response to a shooting attack on the border that critically wounded a border guard, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The attack came following major clashes during a demonstration organized by the Hamas terror group and other factions, during which an Israeli border guard was shot in the head and critically wounded. Forty-one Palestinians were also injured on Saturday, two of them critically, by Israeli gunfire and riot dispersal weapons, according to Hamas’s Gaza health ministry.

The IDF said it hit four sites used by the terror group to produce and store weapons. Palestinian media reports said that the strikes targeted areas in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza, outside Gaza City and in southern Khan Yunis.

The military said the strikes were in response to the riots and the wounding of the Border Police officer.

During the strikes, Palestinians fired heavy machine-gun fire at Israeli aircraft over the coastal enclave. A number of homes and vehicles in Sderot were hit by the gunfire and suffered damage.

A 19-year-old man was evacuated to hospital in light condition after falling over while running to a shelter in Sderot amid the heavy machine-gun fire, the United Hatzala ambulance service said.

Despite the heightened tensions and machine gun fire on Sderot, no change in safety instructions were issued to Israeli residents of the area.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum mocked Israel, saying that it had “underestimated the situation.”

“As usual, the Zionist occupation, by bombing resistance sites, is seeking to cover up its own failure and dismay at the steadfastness and persistence of our people and their valiant resistance,” said Barhoum.

The IDF later released video footage and photographs of some of its targets, noting their proximity to civilian areas. In footage of one of the strikes, Israeli aircraft can be seen dropping a smaller bomb on the target as a warning to those inside to leave before larger ordnance is fired at the site, causing a massive explosion.

“The Hamas terrorist organization continues to lead the Gaza Strip towards terror while exploiting the civilian population,” the army said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians massed near the border fence in the northern Strip and clashed with Israeli troops for a number of hours.

In one incident during the day, as seen in video footage widely shared on social media, a man with a pistol ran up to a small hole in the concrete wall along the Gaza border that a sniper in the Border Police was using as a shooting position and fired a number of shots through it, hitting the border guard.

The Border Police officer sustained a head wound and was taken in critical condition to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where he was immediately taken into surgery, a hospital spokesperson said.

Following the incident and amid the airstrikes, the IDF announced that it had bolstered its Gaza Division with additional troops.

Gaza factions had organized the Saturday protest in al-Malika Refugee Camp near the border with Israel as a part of a series of activities to pressure Israel amid truce negotiations, announcing its plans on Wednesday.

At least 41 rioters were injured by Israeli troops during the hostilities, two of them critically, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The IDF also sent reinforcements to the border on Thursday, though it appeared to have insufficiently anticipated the extent of the violence planned for this weekend.

Tensions have risen between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, as negotiations to strengthen the ceasefire appeared to hit a brick wall. On Monday, two rockets were fired at southern Israel for the first time since the May escalation, allegedly by Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian protesters burn tires amid clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration by the border fence with Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 21, 2021. (Said Khatib/AFP)

For months, Israel and Hamas have held indirect negotiations to lay down the terms for a new status quo. In the aftermath of May’s fighting, Israel has maintained heightened restrictions on Gaza, significantly limiting imports and exports and complicating the reconstruction of the battered enclave.

The renewed violence came despite signs of progress in talks in recent days. On Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he conducted talks with Qatari officials in the leadup to the announcement of an agreement to bring back Qatari aid money to the Gaza Strip.

Prior to the conflict in May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and the Islamist terrorists.

Qatar and the UN will channel $100 salaries for 100,000 impoverished Gazan families — $10 million in total — each month through the UN and the UN World Food Program, Qatari envoy to Gaza Mohammad al-Emadi said in a statement.

Israel has fought four large campaigns against terror groups in the Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007, along with dozens of smaller exchanges of fire.

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