Israeli troops come under fire along Gaza border; no injuries

Gunman said to shoot at patrol from close range; soldiers return fire, apparently killing him; army looking into assailant’s identity

Israeli soldiers guard on the border with the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers guard on the border with the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An IDF patrol came under fire by a Palestinian gunman in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, the army said.

The troops returned fire and hit the gunman.

There were no injuries among the Israeli soldiers, according to the military.

Army sources told the Ynet news site the gunman opened fire at the soldiers from close range, from a distance of 10-20 meters (30-60 feet) from the border fence. Soldiers fired back and hit the gunman, apparently killing him. His body lay near the fence on the Gazan side.

The military was checking his identity, and whether he was a member of the Hamas terror group.

On July 20, an IDF soldier, Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi, was killed by a Gaza sniper. A second sniper attack days later moderately wounded another Israeli soldier.

Reports have proliferated in recent days that a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is imminent, after months of on-again, off-again violence. A senior Hamas official said over the weekend that negotiations for such an accord were in “the final stretch.”

The past months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

A picture taken on August 17, 2018 shows tear gas canisters thrown by Israeli forces at Palestinian protesters during a demonstration along the border of the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Israeli communities, agricultural land, and parks on the Gaza periphery have suffered from hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

While no rockets have been launched at Israel in over a week as talks have progressed, residents of the coastal enclave have continued to release incendiary balloons at bordering Israeli towns nearly every day.

On Friday, thousands of Gazans demonstrated along the Israeli border near the Erez Crossing in weekly Hamas-backed “March of Return” demonstrations. Hamas leaders had urged the public to participate in Friday’s protests. Rioters hurled rocks, improvised bombs and Molotov cocktails at soldiers and burned tires to create a smokescreen. Others launched incendiary balloons toward Israel.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported on Friday that two men had been killed and around 250 injured, of which at least 25 were said hit by live fire.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday said the government’s “endgame” for Gaza was the toppling of its Hamas rulers to allow the Palestinian residents of the coastal enclave to enjoy the economic benefits of peace with Israel.

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