IDF tank strikes 2 Hamas posts after cross-border attacks
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Shepherd lightly burned by Gazan incendiary device

IDF tank strikes 2 Hamas posts after cross-border attacks

Arson device from Strip lands in open field in Eshkol region; in separate case, explosive detonates in Sha’ar Hanegev, causing neither injury nor damage

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

Illustrative: Balloons carry a makeshift drone-shaped object flying over the border with Israel east of Gaza City, after it was set loose by Palestinian protesters during a protest by the fence, on March 22, 2019. (Said KHATIB / AFP)
Illustrative: Balloons carry a makeshift drone-shaped object flying over the border with Israel east of Gaza City, after it was set loose by Palestinian protesters during a protest by the fence, on March 22, 2019. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

An Israeli tank targeted two Hamas posts along the Gaza border on Sunday night, following a number of cross-border attacks throughout the day, the military said.

“An Israel Defense Forces tank attacked a military post belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to explosive devices that were thrown [at the security fence] and balloons carrying explosive devices that were launched throughout the evening,” the army said in a statement.

A short while later, the military said it had conducted a second tank strike on a Hamas post in response to continued border violence.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries, but the Strip’s Red Crescent emergency medical service said one of their ambulances was damaged in the IDF’s first strike.

On Sunday afternoon, a shepherd was lightly injured by a balloon-borne incendiary device flown, into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, local authorities said.

The object landed in an open field in the Eshkol region. It was at least the second such device of the day to touch down in Israel from the Strip, following a particularly violent Saturday night along the Gaza border.

The Bedouin shepherd who was standing nearby sustained burns to his hand, an Eshkol spokesperson said, calling for people to contact security officials in such cases.

He was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center and treated before being released home, a hospital spokesperson said.

The incident was one of the few cases of a person being directly injured by the thousands of incendiary and explosive devices that have been launched into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past year.

A short while later, an explosive device that was also apparently flown into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip detonated in a community in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

The blast caused neither injury nor damage, a regional spokesperson said.

“An explosion was heard in one of the communities in the region. Following a search, the site of the blast was found,” Sha’ar Hanegev said in a statement.

The explosive device appeared to have been sent into the community by a cluster of balloons from the Gaza Strip, but this had yet to be confirmed, the regional spokesperson said.

A balloon-borne incendiary device that lands in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on March 24, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)

On Sunday morning, a suspected explosive device landed in a field in the nearby Sha’ar Hanegev region.

A police sapper was called to the scene to remove the object, which was flown into Israel from Gaza by a cluster of balloons.

The device caused neither injuries nor damage, a Sha’ar Hanegev spokesperson said.

On Saturday night, Israeli military aircraft bombed Hamas targets in Gaza after a rocket alarm sounded in some Israeli communities bordering the Strip, triggered by a powerful improvised bomb thrown at the border during late-night riots.

A Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during the clashes early Sunday, authorities in the Strip said. The 24-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest and two others were wounded, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

There was no immediate comment or confirmation by the Israel Defense Forces.

The military said aircraft struck two Hamas reconnaissance posts in response to “the multitude of explosive devices that were thrown and exploded during the night.”

Nighttime riots in Gaza have been led by so-called “confusion units” organized by the Hamas terror group, the Strip’s de facto ruler. On Saturday, the units said they would step up activities, with a week of nightly riots from 7 p.m. until dawn along the border, and more airborne incendiary devices launched into Israel. They said the move was in response to the deaths of two Palestinians shot by troops during border riots on Friday.

Palestinian protesters take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 19, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

During the nightly demonstrations, participants regularly set off loud explosives or sound grenades, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence.

Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Earlier Saturday, Israeli military aircraft launched a pair of strikes at Palestinian cells flying incendiary balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israel, the army said. Four Palestinians were injured in the strikes.

On Friday, several thousand Palestinians took part in violent protests on the Gaza-Israel border, throwing explosive devices and rocks at Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Balloons carry a make-shift drone-shaped object flying over the border with Israel east of Gaza City, after it was launched by Palestinians during clashes along the security fence, on March 22, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

There are fears that violence will ramp up this week, with Hamas hoping to draw hundreds of thousands of rioters to the fence at the weekend to mark a year of so-called March of Return protests, which began March 30, 2018.

Israel says the demonstrations are orchestrated by Hamas in order to provide cover for the organization’s nefarious activities along the security fence, including infiltration attempts, the planting of explosives and attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials say the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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