Palestinians in the Gaza Strip opened fire with a machine gun at the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Monday night, causing damage but no injuries, in the second such attack in as many weeks, the army said.
The heavy gunfire triggered incoming rocket sirens in Sderot and the surrounding Sha’ar Hanegev region, which sent thousands of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters, the army said.
The shooting attack came hours after a clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen on the Gaza border earlier in the day.
The gunfire damaged a number of buildings in Sderot, the city said, as well as at least one car, according to Israel’s Hadashot news.
This was the second machine gun attack on Sderot in under two weeks. On May 16, bullets also struck a number of homes in the town, though in that case no rocket siren was triggered.
According to the city of Sderot, the shots were aimed at an army aircraft that had been flying overhead, and the bullets struck the homes as they fell back down to earth.
The region has seen a marked uptick in fighting in recent days, with near-daily cross-border incidents shattering the tense calm that had existed in the area previously.
Unlike previous rounds of violence, Gazan terrorists have refrained from shooting rockets, instead using small arms fire directed at troops, planting bombs, flying incendiary kites, and sneaking across the border to cause minor damage.
Hours earlier, Israeli soldiers came under fire from Gaza on Monday, prompting the military to launch fresh strikes on Hamas targets in the Strip, the IDF said.
One Gazan was killed and another moderately injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
The Israeli troops were arresting two Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip, when they came under fire from across the border, the army said.
No Israeli soldiers were reported to be injured.
In response, an IDF tank fired at a nearby observation post, the army said. Reports said the shelled position belongs to the Hamas terror group which rules the Palestinian enclave.
Mohammed al-Rudeia, 25, was killed and another man wounded by shrapnel, the Gazan health ministry said. Hamas’s military wing said Rudeia was a member of the terror group.
Palestinian sources confirmed that Israeli forces shelled targets in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians who breached the security fence were found to be in possession of bolt cutters, knives, and flammable liquid. They were handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.
As a matter of policy, the Israeli army considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, to be responsible for any attack emanating from the beleaguered coastal enclave.
It was the second round of strikes in Gaza in two days, after Israel fired Sunday on an Islamic Jihad position in the southern Gaza Strip, killing three people. It came in response to the discovery of an improvised explosive device placed along the Gaza security fence. The army said the IED targeting IDF troops was disguised to look like a set of bolt cutters.
A spokesperson for the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad terrorist group confirmed the men were members of its military arm.
Earlier Monday, the Gaza health ministry said that a man who was wounded several days ago in clashes with Israeli forces on the border had succumbed to his wounds.
The report did not say exactly when the man, whom it named as Nasser al-Arini, 28, was wounded.
The strikes continued a series of cross-border incidents that occurred over the weekend.
Late Saturday night, Israeli aircraft carried out a series of strikes against Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip late Saturday night, in response to a border breach earlier in the day, the army said. Palestinian media reported that the airstrikes hit a number of Hamas positions in the areas of Rafah and Khan Younis. No injuries were reported.
On Saturday morning, IDF soldiers spotted four Palestinians who crossed the security fence into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip. According to the army, the four threw a firebomb, and left a tent inside Israel with the message: “March of Return: Returning to the lands of Palestine.”
The soldiers opened fire at the individuals, who in turn fled back to the Palestinian side of the fence. No injuries were reported in the Saturday morning incident.
The infiltration was one of numerous attempts over the weekend to breach and damage the border fence, the IDF said.
The IDF also announced Sunday that an explosives-laden drone flown over the border from the Gaza Strip was discovered in Israeli territory last week. The army said the drone was found in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, in the northern Negev, “several days ago,” and that it was flown over the border from Gaza with the intention to injure Israeli soldiers patrolling the area.
The army said the drone was recovered whole, and an investigation into the incident had been opened.
Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly protests which Israel says are orchestrated by Hamas and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.
The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue. Over 10,000 Gazans took part in the demonstrations in the course of Friday and Saturday, the army said.
The demonstrations came to a head on May 14 when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem and at least 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes — almost all of them Hamas members, the terror group has acknowledged.
Michael Bachner and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.