Israeli Army Tank Shells Hamas Target in Gaza; Palestinians Say Three Killed

Attack comes hours after Israeli military struck Hamas targets in Strip's south

An Israeli tank on the Gaza border, March 2018
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli military said it struck a Hamas target near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip with tank fire Sunday morning. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, three Gazans were killed in the attack.

A correspondent for Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen TV said an explosion was heard in the area prior to the Israeli strike.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad organization announced two of its combatants were killed in the attack. "We will not relent our duty towards the blood of those killed and know how we'll react to this grevious escalation," their statement said.

The Israeli army confirmed the attack in a statement, saying it was in response to an explosive charge being placed near the fence, which exploded while being dismantled. Israeli army reported no casualties.

"The charge was placed last night near the bordef fence in the southern Gaza Strip in attempt to harm forces operating in the area and was neutralized this morning by IDF troops," said the statement.

After the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We will no longer tolerate attacks on us from the Gaza Strip. The Air Force attacked terrorist targets deep inside Gaza yesterday night and today, after our forces neutralized an explosive device on the [border] fence, they once again acted against Hamas targets.”

“The IDF and security forces are operating around the clock to defend Israel, protect the citizens of Israel and defend Israel’s borders,” added Netanyahu.  

The reports come hours after the Israeli air force attacked Hamas targets near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip Saturday night. The IDF said the targets were struck in response to an incident earlier Saturday, in which four Palestinians from Gaza crossed the border fence into Israel and threw a firebomb before fleeing back under Israeli fire.

According to the military, the four Palestinians were in Israel for about a minute and left behind a tent that read "The March of Return. Returning to the land of Palestine."

A Hamas-linked website reported Saturday night that the Israeli aristrike targeted a training base used by the group's military wing in Rafah. Local reports said explosions were heard. No injuries were immediately reported.

Also on Saturday, an Israeli soldier who was attacked during a military raid in the West Bank succumbed to his injuries. Ronen Lubarsky, 20, sustained critical injuries to his head when a concrete slab was dropped on him from the third floor of a building during arrests at the al-Am’ari refugee camp. Hundreds attended Lubarsky's funeral on Sunday morning.

The last Israeli strike on Gaza took place on Wednesday, when Israel struck a Hamas tunnel in the northern Strip, as well as two boats belonging to the organization's naval forces. The strikes were in response to Tuesday's events when a group of about ten Palestinian approached the border fence near Rafah, according to the Israeli army. 

Also Saturday, a 41-year-old Palestinian died of wounds sustained during protests days earlier at the Gaza-Israel border, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

The death of Hussein Abu Awida raised the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since March 30, the start of weekly demonstrations, to 116.