Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza After Five Rockets Launched

One rocket fell in an open area, no casualties reported ■ Two Palestinian teens, Khaled Abu Bakr al-Rubaie, 14, and Ali al-Ashqar, 17, were killed by live Israeli fire during weekly demonstrations at the border

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A firefighter attempts to extinguish the blaze caused by a rocket outside Sderot, September 6, 2019.
A firefighter attempts to extinguish the blaze caused by a rocket outside Sderot, September 6, 2019.Credit: Eliahu Hershkowitz

Israel attacked several Hamas targets in Gaza after five rockets were launched from the Strip overnight Friday, the Israeli army said.

Israeli aircraft and a tank targeted Hamas military positions near the border with Israel in the northern Strip.

Earlier Friday, the Gaza health ministry reported that two Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces during clashes near the Gaza border fence on Friday.

Ali al-Ashqar, 17, was shot in the head east of Jabalya, while 14-year-old Khaled Abu Bakr al-Rubaie was shot dead east of Gaza City. At least 66 were also wounded in demonstrations along the border, 38 from gunfire.

Palestinian protesters flee from tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces near Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on August 30, 20Credit: AFP

A few hours later, rocket sirens blared in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Five rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said.

One rocket fell in an open field outside the city, starting a conflagration and causing no casualties, the Israeli army said. Two women were treated for anxiety following the rocket sirens, the Sderot municipality said.

"Israel is stepping up attacks against nonviolent protesters and it will be held accountable for these crimes," Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said on Friday after the deaths were announced.

"The policy of targeting civilian civilians will not deter the Palestinian people from continuing to fight for their freedom, and the return of their land," he added.

Palestinian protesters are seen demonstrating on the Gazan side of the border to mark the first anniversary of the 'March of Return' protests, Nahal Oz, Israel, March 30, 2019.Credit: AFP

A senior Hamas official has told Haaretz that the Gaza factions' joint war room is currently considering if and whether to respond to the killing of the two youths. Other Palestinian factions in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have already released statements espousing Hamas's view.

The events took place during the 73rd weekly 'March of Return' event, which sees thousands of Gazans congregate near the border fence with Israel to protest the ongoing blockade.

According to an official statement by the Israeli army, 6,200 people took part in this week's event, entitled 'Protecting the Palestinian Home Front.'

Friday's demonstrations were particularly violent, the Israeli army said, with protesters throwing multuiple incendiary devices, and damaging the fence in several areas.

The IDF confirmed they arrested two unarmed Palestinians that had crossed the fence, and reported several others entering Israeli territory before returning immediately into the Strip.

The demonstrations frequently turn into violent confrontations with Israeli armed forces, with the IDF using often drastic crowd control measures to prevent incursions into Israeli territory. In recent weeks, the organizers, led by Hamas, have tried to restrain individual units in order to lower the number of casualties and injured. 

Last week, Bader Adin Abu Mousa was killed in similar circumstances. 75 people were reported wounded, at least 42 by live bullets, during the demonstration, which brought 6,000 to the border fence.

Recent escalation on the Israel-Gaza border.Credit: AFP

The status quo in Gaza is fragile, with inhabitants facing ever dire circumstances. Earlier this week, Qatar announced it would cut the fuel subsidy it gives to Gaza by half, potentially plunging Gaza back into darkness for three more hours every day. 

While Israel heads to the polls in an unprecedented second election in one year, Gaza's political leadership seems increasingly worried about the situation in the strip, with some calling it a "volcano about to erupt."

Last month, renewed border violence erupted in Gaza, sparked by several attempts by armed Gazans, previously associated with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, to cross the border fence and target Israeli soldiers.

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