Israeli troops shot and killed an armed Hamas field commander as he approached the northern Gaza border on Thursday morning, according to Palestinian media.
Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that the officer was part of the terror group’s restraint unit, which is deployed along the border and is meant to prevent Palestinians from breaching the security fence.
An unnamed Hamas official told the Haaretz newspaper that the officer — — later identified as Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28 — appeared to have been shot as he was attempting to prevent two youths from approaching the border, though the group was still investigating the incident.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that soldiers had opened fire at two armed men who were seen walking toward the security fence, east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Strip. The military said it could not comment on the matter beyond that.
The terror group’s armed wing said in a statement it would not let the death go “unpunished” and Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act.”
Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.
According to the group, the field commander was shot while “performing his duty in the perimeter protectors force.”
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said that al-Adham was moderately injured by the Israeli gunfire, sustaining a wound to the leg. He was later pronounced dead, the ministry said.
In a separate incident, the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news outlet reported that Israeli soldiers also fired shots at an observation post east of the southern Gazan city of Rafah on Thursday morning. There were no injuries reported in that incident.
It was not immediately clear what preceded the reported gunfire by IDF troops in either case.
Thursday’s border incidents came amid a relatively calm period along the normally restive frontier, following a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
In recent days, Hamas leaders have threatened to bring back the high level of violence along the border — regular riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.
On Tuesday, the Gaza-based terror group launched a highly unusual training exercise that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.
AFP contributed to this report.