Navy catches unarmed Palestinian trying to swim to Israel from Gaza
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Navy catches unarmed Palestinian trying to swim to Israel from Gaza

Separately, mortar shell said fired at southern Israel, apparently fails to clear border; ‘confusion units’ resume clashes with IDF

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Illustrative: A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Israeli Navy arrested a Palestinian man who attempted to swim into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, the military said.

The man was spotted as he approached the Strip’s northern maritime border and was captured shortly after he crossed into Israeli waters, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

He was unarmed and was handed over to the Shin Bet security service for further questioning.

The man will likely be returned to the Gaza Strip in the coming day, as are most Palestinians who attempt to flee the coastal enclave.

Meanwhile, Palestinians launched at least one mortar shell toward Israel from east of the city of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, according to local media. The projectiles apparently fell short and landed inside the Strip.

The Israeli military said no projectiles landed in Israel.

The Eshkol regional council said residents of Kibbutz Kissufim, across from Deir al-Balah, reported hearing explosions.

“We are in contact with the army, and the reports are being checked,” an Eshkol spokesperson said in a statement.

No special safety instructions were given to residents.

In northern Gaza, a so-called “confusion unit” also clashed with IDF troops along the security fence, after approximately two months without such nighttime skirmishes.

Members of the confusion unit threw Molotov cocktails and rocks, shined laser beams and set off fireworks at the Israeli soldiers serving on the border, across from the Jabaliya refugee camp, according to Palestinian media reports.

The IDF troops responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire. No serious injuries were reported by Palestinian officials.

The return of the confusion units to the border and the reported mortar fire appeared to indicate an intention by the Strip’s Hamas rulers to maintain heightened tensions as the terror group negotiates a ceasefire with Israel.

Last Friday, two Palestinian teens were shot and killed during mass riots along the Gaza border, and 17 others were wounded by live fire, according to the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Some 8,000 Palestinians gathered along the border for the weekly demonstrations and riots, throwing rocks, firebombs and explosives at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Palestinian demonstrators evacuate a wounded person during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Since March, Palestinians have been holding weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flare-ups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him.

Last week, Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

Israel constructs an above-ground barrier around Gaza Strip, meant to prevent infiltration by terrorists, in February 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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