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Machine gun fire from Gaza triggers alarms near border community

Gunshots cause neither injury nor damage, but mark the third attack from the Strip in a week, amid high tensions along the frontier

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: A picture taken from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip shows Israeli soldiers inspecting the area around their observation post next to the border fence with the coastal enclave on August 1, 2019, following a firefight with a Palestinian gunman. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Illustrative: A picture taken from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip shows Israeli soldiers inspecting the area around their observation post next to the border fence with the coastal enclave on August 1, 2019, following a firefight with a Palestinian gunman. (Said Khatib/AFP)

A Palestinian gunman in the southern Gaza Strip opened fire with a machine gun toward Israel on Monday morning, triggering alarms near an Israeli border community, amid heightened tensions along the frontier, the military said.

No injuries or damage were reported in the shooting, the third attack from the Palestinian enclave in the past week.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the shots were directed toward an open field in the Eshkol region of southern Israel.

The heavy machine gun fire triggered an alert on the IDF’s Home Front Command smartphone application on devices in the area, the military said.

The IDF refused to comment on who it believed was behind the shooting attack.

Last Wednesday, an Israeli civilian, a contractor for the Defense Ministry working on the Gaza security fence, was lightly injured when he was hit by sniper fire from the Strip.

Three days later, terrorists in the Strip launched two rockets, which landed in the sea, off the coast of Tel Aviv. In response, the IDF conducted an airstrike on a Hamas rocket production facility outside Khan Younis in the predawn house of Sunday morning. During the retaliatory attack, Gazan terrorists targeted some of the Israeli military helicopters taking part in it with shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. The IDF said the missiles missed their mark and caused neither injury nor damage.

During the recent uptick in violence, Egyptian officials have been pushing for Israel and Gazan terror groups to rein in the hostilities and adhere to a ceasefire that has been in place since the most recent conflict in May.

Officials in Cairo called on Hamas and other groups in Gaza to stop actions seen by Israel as “provocative,” and for Israel to accelerate arrangements agreed upon as part of the ceasefire, an Egyptian diplomat with knowledge of the ongoing efforts told the Associated Press.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

“Neither side wants a full-blown war,” the diplomat said. “They just want guarantees and steps on the ground.”

The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and other mediators, has been fragile but has largely held since the 11-day war between Hamas and Israel in May.

Hamas has claimed that the rockets fired on Saturday were not launched intentionally, but that they were triggered by inclement weather. Israeli military officials have said in similar cases in the past that due to the shoddy electrical work on Hamas’s rockets, the projectiles could be set off prematurely by weather conditions, notably lightning strikes.

At the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, however, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was not interested in such excuses.

“All of Hamas’s stories about thunder and lightning, which we hear winter after winter, are not relevant anymore,” said Bennett. “Anyone who aims rockets at the State of Israel must take responsibility.”

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Israeli officials believe the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group was responsible for the rocket fire, not Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The network said Hamas conveyed to Israel via Egyptian mediators that it was not responsible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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