Israeli planes carried out airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip early Monday morning, the army said, hours after a group of Palestinians entered Israeli territory from the enclave and planted two improvised explosive devices along the Gaza security fence.
The strikes targeted a military base belonging to the Hamas terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip, the army said.
“The Israel Defense Forces sees with severity any attempt to harm or destroy the security and defense infrastructure and will not allow the border area to become a combat zone,” the army said in a statement, echoing a similar statement released on Sunday night announcing that soldiers found two bombs, which appeared to be rigged out of plastic drinking bottles full of an explosive liquid with a detonator.
The army said that soldiers monitoring closed circuit cameras spotted three men as they broke through the border to place the explosive devices, and then later crossed back into Gaza.
An IDF tank opened fire at them, according to Palestinian media.
No injuries were reported.
Also on Sunday, Israeli troops arrested an unarmed Palestinian man who crossed into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. He was handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.
The infiltrations were the latest incident in a series of escalating events along the Gaza border.
On Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along the security fence, burning tires and throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and live fire, the army and witnesses said, as Palestinians held a second “March of Return” protest. Nine Gazans were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the day’s clashes.
The IDF said it thwarted multiple efforts on Friday to breach the border fence — and that it used live fire to do so in some instances — as well as attempts to activate bombs against the troops under the cover of smoke from the protests.
The week before, more than 30,000 people participated in a similar demonstration along the border, which also included multiple attempts to tear down the security fence and to plant explosives alongside it, according to the IDF.
Friday’s demonstration was the second of what Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group said would be several weeks of “March of Return” protests, which Hamas leaders say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.
An Islamist terror group, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.