An Israel Defense Forces strike close to the border fence in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday killed one Palestinian and left another critically wounded , Hamas police said.
An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman confirmed that troops had opened fire, both from aircraft and tanks, near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, and said that the strike had targeted a militant cell laying explosive devices near the border fence.
The IDF also said that the devices being planted by the Palestinian militants exploded during the strike.
"The IDF will not tolerate any attempts to harm its civilians or Israel Defense Forces soldiers," said the army in a statement, adding that it held Hamas responsible for any violence emerging from Gaza.
The Israel-Gaza border has been relatively quiet over the last few weeks. A series of rockets were fired at Israel in late December, following the targeted killing in which two sorties by the Israel Air Force struck three terrorists and wounded another nine.
The Israel Defense Forces' Gaza Division said late last year that it was preparing for a possible large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip, now three years after Operation Cast Lead. "We are preparing and in fact are ready for another campaign, which will be varied and different, to renew our deterrence, if we are called on to restore full quiet to the communities [in the south]," said the head of the division's Southern Brigade, Brig. Gen. Tal Hermoni.
Under a plan overseen by Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the next Gaza operation would be shorter than the one launched in late 2008, but would employ far greater firepower.
The IDF notes, however, that Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, including Islamic Jihad, have more weapons now than they did in 2008. The Kornet anti-tank missiles have since become a threat to Israeli tanks, and this year rockets were fired for the first time at IDF troops.
Since the terror attack on the road to Eilat in mid-August, there has been a rise in targeted killings in Gaza. Southern Command officers cite a policy of attacking terrorist cells planning to strike Israel, even at the risk of rockets being fired at southern communities in response.
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