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Fire exchanged between Gaza and Israeli forces

March 2, 2017 4:05 P.M. (Updated: March 3, 2017 1:29 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Shots were fired from the besieged Gaza Strip at Israeli forces deployed near the border between the Palestinian territory and Israel on Thursday afternoon, shortly before Israeli forces targeted two alleged Hamas sites in the territory with a military aircraft and tank.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that shots were fired from Gaza as Israeli forces were carrying out “routine activities” on the border. No injuries were reported.

The spokesperson could not confirm to Ma’an where the incident took place in Gaza or what constituted "routine activities" by Israeli forces around Gaza, which has been held under a devastating Israeli-imposed siege for a decade.

Shortly after the incident, several Israeli forces targeted two alleged Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that an Israeli aircraft and tank targeted the two sites in response to the shots that were fired at Israeli military forces on the border.

Witnesses said that six shells targeted a military site belonging to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. Israeli military planes were also flying above the targeted area at the time, witnesses added.

No injuries have been reported.

In the morning there were reports of Israeli forces opening fire on Palestinian lands and homes in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, as Israeli soldiers were stationed at the border. During a separate incident in the morning, four Israeli military bulldozers entered the territory of Gaza east of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Israeli army incursions inside the Palestinian territory have long been a near-daily occurrence, as the Israeli army regularly opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen and farmers along the border areas if they approach Israel’s unilaterally declared “buffer zone,” which lies on both the land and sea sides of Gaza.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, a rocket was reportedly fired from the besieged Gaza Strip and landed in an open area in southern Israel.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an on Thursday morning that a “projectile was fired from the Gaza Strip” and landed in the Hof Ashkelon area, causing no injuries, and added that Israeli forces had searched the area.The spokesperson said they were not aware of any actions taken by the army in response to the rocket.

The Israeli army also targeted multiple sites across the besieged Gaza Strip with airstrikes and artillery fire on Monday leaving at least four Palestinians injured, hours after an Israeli army spokesperson said that a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area in southern Israel, causing no injuries or damages.

On Feb. 9, Gaza's Ministry of Health said that two Palestinians were killed and five were injured as a result of an airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, though an Israeli army spokesperson denied involvement in the incident.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern in February in response to Israeli airstrikes that Israel could be leading up to a wide-scale military offensive.

The rights group called on the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” stressing that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli officials have accused Hamas, Gaza's de facto leaders, of "preparing" for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole, while Israeli authorities hold Hamas responsible for all attacks against Israeli targets coming from the Gaza Strip.

However, Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since a ceasefire was declared after Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in 2014, and the movement has attempted to clamp down on armed activity by smaller political groups that do launch rockets from the territory.
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