Fighting ramped up between Israel and Gaza Wednesday evening after an Israeli offcer was moderately wounded by Palestinian snipers at the border.
The Israeli army said its troops were trying to turn away Palestinian children who had approached the border fence in southern Gaza when Palestinian snipers shot at the soldiers. One officer was moderately wounded.The miltiary responded by attacking a number of Hamas positions in Gaza, killing three and wounding one, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. Hamas' military wing said the three were part of a unit that patrols the border fence.
On Thursday morning, nine projectiles were fired from Gaza at Israel, most of them falling in open areas near the border fence, the military said. One projectile was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery.
Following the exchange on the border Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened an emergency security meeting at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
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The IDF spokesman commented, "the IDF will act against any attempt to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its residents."
Gaza's Health Ministry identified the three killed by the Israeli strikes as Ahmed Albasus, 28, Abada Alfarona, 29 and Mohammad Alariar, 27. One Palestinian is said to be in serious condition.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said "the scope of the deliberate Israeli attack on the fighters reveals that Israel has the intention of killing, it is impossible to sit idly by in the face of Israel's crimes. The resistance forces will not give up their duty to respond to this aggression and defend the Palestinian people."
The Al-Quds Brigade, Islamic Jihad's military wing, also responded saying, "the abominable crime committed by Israel will not pass quietly and without punishment. The resistance forces will defend the Palestinian people and avenge the blood of those killed."
Minutes after the exchange started, rocket alerts sounded in Gaza-border communities. Residents in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council near the Gaza border reported hearing blasts.
Massive Israeli tank and artillery fire was reported east of Gaza City, according to Palestinian sources.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military fired at a group of Palestinians who hurled incendiary balloons towards Israel. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that three Palestinians were injured in the attack, one of them gravely.
A senior political source said over the weekend that Hamas has asked for a cease-fire and guaranteed that it would stop firing airborne firebombs. However, Hamas activists have told Haaretz that Hamas leadership will not be able to act publicly against the balloon-launchers as long as it does not manage to obtain an Israeli easing of restrictions on the Strip. The IDF has attacked three times since the ceasefire was declared, the last time yesterday when an IDF aircraft attacked a group of Palestinians who fired Molotov cocktails in the Gaza Strip.
Last Friday an Israeli soldier was killed by sniper fire in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF retaliated striking 68 Hamas targets, and killed four Gazans, three of them Hamas operatives.
Following the escalation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held two security meetings with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the military chief Gadi Eisenkot, Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman and other senior defense officials. "If Hamas continues launching rockets, the result will be a lot worse than they think," Lieberman told the United Nations' Middle East ambassador, Nickolay Mladenov.