Israeli aircraft strike Hamas naval base after mortar fire sets off Iron Dome

IDF confirms attack on terror group in Strip; Gazan teen succumbs to wounds sustained during clashes along border as restive region continues to heat up

Illustrative: A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows smoke rising above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike.  (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
Illustrative: A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows smoke rising above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Israeli warplanes bombed a Hamas naval post in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, hours after a mortar shell was fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel, the army said.

“Fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Palestinian media reported that the target was a Hamas naval commando base. A Palestinian security source confirmed a Hamas base was struck, causing damage but no injuries. The Hamas-linked Shehab news site said the site was northwest of Khan Younis.

The strike came as Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry announced that a 15-year-old boy had succumbed to wounds sustained during clashes with Israeli forces at the border fence Wednesday night.

The army said the strike, at about 1:30 a.m. was in response to a projectile fired from the Palestinian enclave and an explosives-laden balloons launched at Israel Wednesday night.

Hours earlier the army said that it had fired an Iron Dome air defense missile in response to the incoming mortar shell from the Strip.

It was not clear the projectile from Gaza had been intercepted or where it landed. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The border region has seen increasingly intense bouts of violence over the last several days, with Israel carrying out airstrikes in response to explosives tied to balloons launched from Gaza. On Wednesday, three explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip and detonated above communities in the Eshkol region.

A cluster of balloons carrying what appears to be a cardboard model of a drone that was launched from the Gaza Strip touches down in southern Israel on February 20, 2019. (Eshkol Security)

The blasts caused neither injury nor damage, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

There have also been nightly clashes between Palestinian rioters and troops along the border fence, including Wednesday night.

The Gazan health ministry said early Thursday that Saif al-Din Abu Zaid, 15, “succumbed to wounds he sustained a few hours ago on the border region east of Gaza City.”

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said he was shot during clashes along the border late Wednesday.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not comment on the specific incident but said hundreds of “rioters” had hurled rocks and explosive devices at troops along the border, with soldiers responding according to “standard operating procedures.”

The army said rocket sirens were accidentally activated in the Shaar Hanegev region as a result of rioters attempting to throw an explosive device at troops across the border.

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)

In the nightly demonstrations, led by so-called “confusion units,” participants generally set off loud explosives, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Israel has accused Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler in the Strip, or encouraging the riots and using them as cover for more sophisticated attacks. Analysts also believe Hamas may be using the demonstrations to increase pressure on Israel to agree to a new ceasefire deal that includes allowing the transfer of millions of dollars in aid money.

An Egyptian delegation traveled to Gaza this week in a bid to convince Hamas leaders to tamp down the violence. They warned that “creating tensions on the border by launching incendiary balloons will bring the IDF to launch a broad military confrontation in the Strip,” according to a report from the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, which cited a senior Hamas source.

On Monday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel of breaking a previous ceasefire, which has given way to the renewal of fighting.

Adam Rasgon and AFP contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: