IDF soldier wounded, 19 Gazan rioters reported shot as border heats up

Israel strikes back with tank fire at Hamas posts after serviceman hit by improvised explosive, as dozens of Gazans burn tires, throw bombs at troops and security fence, army says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A masked Palestinian pulls a burning tire during a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A masked Palestinian pulls a burning tire during a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

An IDF soldier was moderately injured in clashes along the northern Gaza border on Sunday night, days after a similar attack lightly wounded a Border Police officer, the army said.

The serviceman appeared to have been hit by an improvised explosive thrown by Palestinians during a riot along the Gaza border, east of the city of Jabaliya, around 9:00 p.m., the Israel Defense Forces said.

He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center in moderate condition. The soldier sustained shrapnel wounds to the neck, the hospital said.

During the same clash in the northern Gaza Strip, 19 Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunfire, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said in a statement to reporters. They suffered varying injuries of different degrees, he added.

One person was seriously injured, sustaining a head wound, according to the health ministry.

The Gaza health ministry spokesman said there were no Palestinian fatalities in the clash.

Palestinian media reported that the rioters tried to breach the security fence, but were driven back by Israeli gunfire.

In response to the riot, Israeli tanks shelled two Hamas observation posts near the border, the army said.

The military said during the riot, dozens of Palestinian rioters burned tires and threw improvised explosive devices at the security fence surrounding the northern Gaza Strip and the Israeli troops on the other side.

“An IDF soldier was injured apparently by an explosive device that was thrown at him,” the army said.

After doctors worked to stop the bleeding to his neck, the soldier was taken into surgery, the hospital said.

The Sunday night clash came two days after a massive border riot in which an Israeli Border Police officer from an undercover unit was lightly wounded by shrapnel in the leg when a pipe bomb exploded next to his team, police said.

An Israeli Military Intelligence assessment released last Wednesday warned that Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, may seek to spark a war with Israel in the near future in an attempt to elicit international sympathy and an influx of international aid money to the Gaza Strip.

The IDF believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an as-yet-undiscovered tunnel or a similar low-level but significant attack.

In light of this view, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, called for the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian protesters run toward the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. An Israeli military vehicle is pictured on the other side of the fence. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flareups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

Earlier this month Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

Adam Rasgon, Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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