Shot fired at Israeli troops from Gaza; IDF strikes Hamas posts in response

No one injured in exchange, which comes as unofficial ceasefire agreement between Israel and terror group said to advance; thousands protest on border

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Israeli Merkava battle tank on the border with the Gaza Strip on March 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

A gunshot was reportedly fired at Israeli troops serving along the Gaza border on Friday, prompting a number of retaliatory strikes against nearby Hamas positions, the Israel Defense Forces said.

No injuries were reported on either side in the exchange of fire.

The IDF said the soldiers were targeted while at the security fence. According to outlets in the Gaza Strip, the incident occurred east of the Gazan city Deir al-Balah.

A short time later, an Israeli tank and aircraft targeted two Hamas observation posts along the Gaza border, the army said.

“An IDF aircraft and tank attacked two military positions belonging to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip in response to a shot that was fired a short time ago at troops near the security fence,” the IDF said.

The fire came as troops were gearing up for the weekly protests and riots along the Gaza border that have been held almost every Friday for more than a year.

Several thousand Palestinians took part in the protests later Friday, with some rioting along the border, throwing rocks and explosive devices at soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 12 people were wounded by live fire.

The exchange also came amid ongoing efforts to implement a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

On Thursday, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said Israel had agreed to lift restrictions on importing many “dual-use” goods into Gaza as a part of the understandings with terror groups there.

For the past several years Israel has heavily restricted the entry of products that it labels “dual-use,” meaning that they can be used for both civilian and military purposes. Palestinians in Gaza have long been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.

“We extracted from the occupation the lifting of the restrictions and the ban…on 30 percent of these materials,” Hayya told the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV in a long interview late Wednesday.

Hamas senior political leader Khalil al-Hayya during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed)

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with Palestinians, declined to confirm or deny Hayya’s comments.

“We do not respond to foreign reports,” COGAT said in an email.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to a request for comment.

According to a World Bank report that was issued on Wednesday, there are 118 goods that Israel classifies as dual-use in relation to Gaza and 56 to the West Bank. Those pertaining to Gaza include several chemicals, machinery including drilling equipment, jet skis and many other materials and products.

The report said World Bank estimates found that “easing dual-use restrictions could bring additional 6 percent growth in the West Bank economy and 11% in Gaza by 2025, compared to a scenario with continued restrictions.”

Hayya also warned that if Israel did not abide by the recent ceasefire understandings, Palestinians in Gaza would renew launching incendiary and explosive-laden balloons into the Jewish state, nighttime protests in the border region between the Jewish state and the coastal enclave, and other measures.

Palestinian protesters hold balloons before loading them with flammable material to be flown towards Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in the central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

“[Israel] not abiding….would mean the rough tools would return. Everything and more than the rough tools would return,” he said. “We say that we will not accept the siege staying in place.”

“Rough tools” refer to the launching of incendiary and explosive-laden balloons into Israel and other activities along the border, which have included setting off small explosions, lighting tires on fire and pointing lasers at IDF soldiers.

Since early April, the launching of balloons and nighttime protests have essentially been halted.

Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar recently brokered ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, which Hebrew media reports have said include an end to violence emanating from the Gaza in exchange for the Jewish state easing some of its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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