Palestinian groups praise attack on IDF patrol, warn Israel not to retaliate
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Palestinian groups praise attack on IDF patrol, warn Israel not to retaliate

No claim of responsibility for border fence bomb that wounds four soldiers, two of them seriously

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

File: Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
File: Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinian groups in Gaza on Saturday hailed as “heroic” the bombing of an IDF patrol along the border fence that wounded four soldiers, and said they would not remain idle in the face of Israeli “aggression.”

The Hamas terror group that rules Gaza said would react “in the face of Israeli encroachment on the land and holy sites,” but did not claim the attack.

The incident occurred in the southern Gaza area near the city of Khan Younis, the IDF said. The soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital in Beersheba for treatment, where three of them were rushed into surgery. None of them was in life-threatening condition, the hospital said later Saturday.

An IDF spokesperson called the attack “a serious incident that aimed at destabilizing the region.”

The spokesperson told reporters that the patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.

The spokesperson said that the patrol — made up of Golani infantry soldiers and members of a combat engineering unit — was operating with standard procedures to remove any foreign object from the border fence, but that these would now be reviewed.

Israeli troops and first responders at the Gaza border following an explosion that targeted an IDF patrol, February 17, 2018. (Hadashot news screenshot)

Immediately after the attack, an IDF tank fired a tank shell at an observation post. Palestinian media said it belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. There has been no statement from the group. Later, Israel carried out further retaliatory strikes, including at Hamas targets.

Islamic Jihad has been vowing to avenge an incident where Israel destroyed one of the terrorist group’s attack tunnels that crossed from Gaza into Israel, killing many of the groups members.

On October 30, the IDF blew up the tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim.

According to the army, the tunnel had been under surveillance the entire time that it was inside Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.

Some 14 terrorists, mostly from the Iran-backed group, including two senior officers, were killed in the blast and its aftermath. The army said later that this was not the primary objective of the tunnel demolition.

The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, a group comprising several terror groups, said that the “heroic operation east of Khan Younis came in the context of the Palestinian response to the incursions [into the Gaza Strip] of the enemy.”

The attack was also aimed at sending a message to Israel that the Palestinian “resistance” factions in the Gaza Strip are prepared to defend the Palestinians, the group said.

“Any Israeli idiocy towards the Gaza Strip would be counterproductive,” the group warned, referring to any Israeli military response. “The resistance factions will have the right to respond to deter the enemy from pursuing its crimes and aggression.”

The Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – Martyr Ayman Judeh Groups, a terror group belonging to the Fatah faction, welcomed the attack against the IDF patrol. “This operation affirms our right to respond to the crimes of the Zionist enemy,” the group said.

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