Israel strikes Hamas post in response to Gaza border riot

Israel strikes Hamas post in response to Gaza border riot

Palestinian media says Israeli drone targeted terror group’s observation post in northern Strip, in first apparent case of retaliation against nighttime ‘confusion’ units

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military 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 Israeli military drone bombed a Hamas position in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday night in response to a violent riot along the border nearby, according to Palestinian media.

While it was Israel’s third retaliatory airstrike against the terror group in the past two days, it appeared to be the military’s first time conducting such an attack in response to riots along the security fence itself, rather than to cross-border violence directed toward Israeli civilian communities.

“An Israel Defense Forces aircraft attacked a Hamas post in response to the throwing of explosive devices across the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip,” the army said.

On Sunday evening, members of a so-called “confusion unit” held a violent demonstration along the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip, east of Beit Hanoun, burning tires and setting off many explosive devices near the border.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, three people were injured by Israeli troops during the riot.

Earlier in the evening, Israeli troops caught two unarmed Palestinian who crossed into Israeli territory from the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.

The men were detained shortly after breaching the security fence, and were not in possession of weapons, according to the military.

After halting their activities for several months, the Palestinian “confusion units” recently returned to the Gaza border, holding riots at different locations along the security fence each night in an effort to maintain pressure on Israel by tormenting the civilians living nearby and the troops serving on the border.

On Saturday evening, the Israeli army said its aircraft fired at targets in the southern Gaza Strip in response to a cluster of balloons attached to an incendiary device that was launched from the Strip toward Israel.

The explosive balloons did not cause any injuries or damage.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces called the targets “Hamas military posts.”

Earlier on Saturday, violent clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers broke out along the border fence. IDF soldiers used riot dispersal methods to keep the demonstrators away from the border fence.

Several demonstrators attempted to sabotage the border fence.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

The IDF said it had neutralized suspected explosive devices that were thrown at the fence Friday during violent demonstrations along the Gaza border, where some 8,000 Palestinians protested, with some rioting and clashing with Israeli troops.

Some protesters burned tires and threw explosive devices, rocks and grenades at Israeli troops guarding the security fence, the army said.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some instances, live fire, the army said.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 21 Palestinians were wounded during the clashes by Israeli fire.

The riots were part of the March of Return protests, which have taken place weekly along the border since last March and have periodically escalated into major flare-ups between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.

A Palestinian throws back a tear gas canister toward Israeli forces during clashes on the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on January 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has accused Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Strip, of orchestrating the clashes and using them as cover to breach the border fence and carry out attacks.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The latest riots came after the release last week of a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s handling of the clashes that alleged there is evidence Israeli soldiers committed crimes again humanity.

The inquiry investigated possible violations from the start of the protests on March 30, 2018, through December 31.

Israeli leaders angrily rejected the findings of the UN probe, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased.”

Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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