Mortar shell fired from Gaza, drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes

No reports of injuries or damages as shell strikes open field; projectile was the second to be launched at Israel on Thursday

Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, on November 13, 2019. (Anas Baba/AFP)
Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, on November 13, 2019. (Anas Baba/AFP)

A projectile was fired Thursday from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, prompting retaliatory strikes by the Israeli military against Hamas positions in the coastal enclave.

The projectile — apparently a mortar shell — struck an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, a local government spokesperson said. There were no injuries or damage caused the attack.

Incoming rocket sirens were set off in Kfar Azza, a kibbutz near the Gaza border, the army said.

Hours later, the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of strikes on Hamas targets in the Strip.

News outlets in Gaza reported that the strikes targeted Hamas posts throughout the enclave, from the area around Rafah in the south to near Beit Lahia in the north.

“A short while ago, IDF aircraft attacked underground infrastructure and a naval target belonging to the Hamas terror group in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as a military installation belonging to the terror group in the north of the Strip,” the military confirmed in a statement, noting that the attack was in retaliation for the rocket strike earlier in the evening.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

The projectile fired from Gaza on Thursday evening was the second to be launched at Israel by Palestinian terrorists that day, after a rocket was fired in the predawn hours of the morning.

The Israel Defense Forces said the earlier rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, with no reports of injury or damage. In response, Israeli aircraft struck a Hamas weapons production facility in northern Gaza, the army said, noting it holds the terror group, which rules Gaza, responsible for all violence emanating from it.

Israel later announced it had restricted the permitted fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles in response to the rocket fire.

A Palestinian armed with what appears to be an assault rifle approaches the security fence between Gaza and Israel on December 17, 2019. (Screen capture: Israel Defense Forces)

On Wednesday, an Israeli aircraft fired at and hit an armed Palestinian who approached the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the military said.

The military said the Palestinian was spotted by IDF observation posts as he neared the security fence in southern Gaza.

Authorities in the Hamas-run Strip did not comment on the Palestinian suspect’s condition.

Footage of the incident, which was later distributed by the IDF, showed the suspect approaching the security fence armed with what appears to be an assault rifle. The video ends before the airstrike.

On Friday several thousand Palestinians protested on the Gaza border, including several hundred rioting and clashing with Israeli forces, as the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers marked 32 years since the founding of the terror group.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said five Palestinians were hurt in the clashes, which saw the hurling of Molotov cocktails and other objects at IDF soldiers.

In addition to the border clashes, thousands took part in rallies in Gaza over the weekend to mark the 1987 anniversary of the terror group’s establishment.

Friday’s border demonstrations were part of the weekly March of Return protests that began last March and resumed earlier this month after a three-week hiatus following a large-scale battle in November between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza.

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