Israel Strikes Islamic Jihad Cell After It Opened Fire on Soldiers, Army Says

Incident comes a day after Israel decided to increase the cap for permits given to workers and merchants in Gaza to 7,000, the highest level since Hamas took over the enclave in 2007

Israeli army vehicles driving along the Gaza border fence, February 2020.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israeli army struck Islamic Jihad snipers who fired on Israeli troops, the military said Wednesday.

"A short time ago IDF troops identified an Islamic Jihad sniper cell that had shot from the area of Khan Yunis toward our forces on the Israeli side of the border," the army spokesperson said in a statement. "In response, IDF forces attacked the sniper cell to neutralize the threat," the army said. A police statement added that the Border Police's special counter-terrorism unit was also involved in locating and shooting at the cell. 

LISTEN: The only way Bibi can stay out of jailHaaretz Weekly Ep. 62

No Israeli casualties were reported.

Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhalah meanwhile said that "the campaign against Israel at this stage is at its peak as a political campaign, but this campaign could become a military campaign at any moment."

Speaking at a meeting in Beirut, al-Nakhalah also alluded to Israel's targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, saying, "The enemy must understand and internalize that the assassination policy doesn't scare us and won't break the resistance, and that we will respond to any such action immediately, and that any aggression against the Palestinian people will encounter resistance like they have never seen."

On Tuesday, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that Israel had decided to increase the cap for permits given to workers and merchants in Gaza to 7,000, the highest level since Hamas' rule began in 2007. 

The govermnet said that the fishing zone off Gaza's coast would be expanded to 15 miles and 2,000 additional exit permits would be given to merchants in the enclave in light of "the relative calm in recent days."

Steps easing restrictions on Gazans were announced last week after Hamas informed Israel that it planned to unilaterally halt the launching of explosive-laden balloons and rockets at Israel amid talks of a long-term truce, but they were not implemented because of rocket fire from Gaza over the weekend.

While the permits are for merchants who are supposed to show proof that they have worked as traders, authorities have approved a large number of them to work in agriculture in border communities. 

Communities near the Gaza border and the military are generally in favor of allowing the entry of Gazans for agricultural work, while the Shin Bet has been more cautious, fearing security breaches.

Last week, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel might launch a major military operation in Gaza in the near future. Netanyahu, speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, said he won’t accept “any aggression from Gaza.”