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IDF blames ‘misunderstanding’ for tank firing on Hamas post without approval

Preliminary investigation finds armored crews had been told to target border positions; unauthorized attack was in response to rocket launch from Gaza that hit Ashkelon factory

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

An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

A preliminary investigation has indicated that a “misunderstanding” prompted a tank to open fire without authorization at a Hamas observation post on the Gaza border on Saturday night in response to a rocket attack from the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.

Just after 9:30 p.m., terrorists in the Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, striking an empty warehouse and causing damage to the structure but no direct injuries.

Shortly after the attack, Palestinian media reported that an IDF tank had opened fire at a Hamas position on the northern border of the Gaza Strip. Residents of southern Israel also reported hearing the sound of tank fire near the border. The military initially denied the reports, saying it was unaware of such an attack.

On Sunday morning, however, the IDF confirmed that a tank had shelled a Hamas position on the border without having received permission to do so. The military announced it was launching a probe into the matter, an IDF spokesperson said.

The military said tanks on the border had been instructed to put Hamas positions in their sites.

“A preliminary investigation found that the tank carried out the strike as a result of a misunderstanding between commanders on the radio. The incident is still being investigated,” the IDF said.

On Sunday morning, the military launched a surprise exercise in the area, which delayed the completion of the probe.

In response to the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, Israeli fighter jets and helicopters carried out airstrikes on Hamas military installations in the enclave in the predawn hours of Sunday morning, the army said.

The targets included “two rocket manufacturing sites, underground infrastructure and a training facility for the Hamas terror group’s naval force,” the IDF said.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.

No terror group in Gaza immediately took responsibility for the attack. The IDF said it held Hamas, which rules the Strip, responsible for the rocket fire.

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