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17 Feb, 2018 14:35

Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza with tank fire & airstrikes after 4 soldiers wounded in blast

Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza with tank fire & airstrikes after 4 soldiers wounded in blast

At least four Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers were injured when a patrol was hit in an IED explosion in the Gaza Strip. Following the incident, Israel responded with tank fire and airstrikes at Hamas targets.

The IDF troops were patrolling an area near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip when the explosion took place, the military tweeted. Four servicemen sustained injuries in the incident, the IDF spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, said in a Twitter post, adding that two of them were “severely” injured.

In response, the IDF used a tank to target a “military observation post near the place of the attack.” The shots were reportedly fired at a Hamas facility located east of the city of Khan Yunis, according to Israeli media.

Later on Saturday, the Israeli Air Force also targeted six Hamas targets located in the Gaza Strip, in what was called further retaliation for the detonation of an explosive device that hit an IDF patrol. The targets included a tunnel built by the Hamas militants, as well as several “military facilities” of the armed group, the Israeli media reported.

In a separate statement on Saturday night, the IDF added that it hit eight more Hamas military targets near Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, and opened tank fire at two observation posts. The targets, according to the IDF spokesman, included Hamas weapons production sites. Israeli military struck a total of 18 targets in retaliation for the attack on its soldiers, according to the IDF.

The sirens that sounded across the border at 2:00 am local time, as the Israeli planes launched airstrikes on Gaza, were described by the IDF as a false alarm, the Haaretz reported, citing IDF spokesperson’s unit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the incident involving the Israeli patrol as “very serious.” He also vowed that Tel Aviv “will respond appropriately.”

The IDF also blamed the incident on Hamas and accused the group of staging “fake” demonstrations to cover their operations, which involved planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs). “The IED that wounded [four] IDF soldiers was placed under the cover of yesterday’s riot, attached to a flag,” Conricus said, adding that the IDF holds “Hamas responsible for all aggression from Gaza.”

The incident came amid increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, who are supported by Hamas. Protests gripped Palestinian territories after US President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On February 10, more than 50 Palestinian protesters were injured by Israeli forces, which used live ammunition to suppress the 10th ‘Friday of Rage’ rally. The latest major clash between the Israeli military and the Palestinian armed groups occurred in November when the IDF used tanks and jets to attack Hamas positions following the mortar shelling of an Israeli outpost by another militant group.

In October, the IDF also blew up a tunnel built by militants, which stretched from the Gaza Strip into Israel’s territory. The Palestinian groups then vowed retaliation for the move, which claimed the lives of six militants.

In mid-December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tel Aviv would no longer play “ping-pong” by exchanging rocket attacks with the Palestinian militants. He also vowed to destroy all existing Palestinian tunnels using some “new technologies” invented by Israel.

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