Israeli Army Says Islamic Jihad Fired Iran-made Mortar Shells From Gaza Last Week

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had earlier blamed the mortar fire on 'small Salafist groups'

Mortar shell, Nahal Oz
Eliahu Hershkovitz

After investigating the circumstances, Israeli army officials now think it was Islamic Jihad that fired mortar shells from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Friday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had said on Saturday evening that the attack was the work of small Islamist Salafi groups, an opinion the army's conclusion now contradicts.

The investigation found that the mortar shells, which were made in Iran, were identical to those Islamic Jihad had shot at an Israeli army position near the northern Gaza Strip on November 30.

In its Friday attack, Islamic Jihad was seeking revenge for Israel’s destruction of a tunnel running under the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel two months ago, says the army probe. The tunnel explosion killed 24 members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Three mortar shells were fired in Friday’s incident, including at people attending a ceremony at Kibbutz Kfar Aza to mark the birthday of Oron Shaul, an Israeli soldier whose body has been held by Hamas since his death during Operation Protective Edge in mid-2014, the army investigation found. The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two of the shells. A third hit a building in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, causing property damage.

In response to the mortar fire, the IDF attacked two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip with tanks and from the air.