IDF troops shelled near Gaza border, tanks return fire
No injuries reported on either side; army declares area around Kibbutz Sufa a closed military zone
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Mortar shells were fired at Israeli troops operating on the Gaza frontier Thursday, causing no injury or damage, the army said, in the latest cross-border exchange in a flare-up of violence.
In response, Israel Defense Forces tanks returned fire, shelling nearby “suspicious” sites believed to be the source of the mortar launches, the military said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries within the Gaza Strip as a result of the exchange.
Earlier in the day, the IDF revealed that it had discovered a Hamas “terror tunnel” burrowing into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. This was the second such tunnel discovered in a month.
Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, head of the IDF’s Southern Command, issued an order declaring the surrounding area a closed military zone.
Zamir’s order pertains particularly to the area surrounding Kibbutz Sufa, which sits a few kilometers north of the Kerem Shalom crossing.
This was the third day in a row in which IDF troops on the border came under mortar fire, as they worked to uncover this new tunnel on the Gaza side of the separation fence.
No troops have thus far been injured in the attacks, though some engineering vehicles have been damaged, according to the army.
This second tunnel, which is slated to be destroyed in the coming days, is 28 meters (90 feet) deep and was located just a few kilometers from the location of another tunnel discovered and destroyed last month, the army said.
It was not immediately clear if the tunnel was newly constructed or if it remained from the 2014 Gaza war.
Despite the increased tension along the border with Gaza in recent weeks, the years since the 2014 conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge, have been the quietest in over a decade, in terms of rocket fire and attacks coming from the coastal enclave.
Since the discovery of the first attack tunnel last month, the IDF and Israeli government have stressed there are no indications of an imminent large-scale conflict with the Hamas terrorist organization.
Hamas has similarly voiced through proxies that it does not wish to renew conflict with the Jewish state at this point in time.
Ilan Ben Zion and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.