The Israeli army said Tuesday that a strike in Gaza that killed nine members of the same family had been due to a faulty assessment of the risk to civilians.
The November 14 airstrike targeted the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, described by Israel as a commander in Islamic Jihad, the militant Palestinian movement against which Israel had launched a three-day campaign.
He and eight members of his family were killed by the attack, including five children.
A statement from the army said that intelligence collected ahead of the attack had indicated that the residence “was designated as an Islamic Jihad terror organisation military compound”.
The army had “estimated” that “civilians would not be harmed as a result of an attack” on the site, which was not believed to be accessible to members of the public.
An army inquiry later found “that even though military activity was conducted in the compound, it was not a closed compound, and in reality, civilians were present there,” it said.
The army said it would learn from its “mistakes” to reduce “the recurrence of similar irregular events.”
It stressed it had made “considerable efforts… to reduce the damage to non-combatants”.
The military report also blamed Islamic Jihad for exploiting and endangering non-combatants “by placing its military assets in the heart of the civilian population and by deliberately acting from within densely populated civilian areas.”
The three-day flareup began when Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza on November 12.
The Islamist group, which is closely allied with Gaza’s rulers Hamas, responded by firing more than 450 rockets at Israel.
During the confrontation, Israeli forces attacked dozens of targets in the enclave.
Palestinian officials said 35 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded. There were no Israeli fatalities.
In its Tuesday report, the Israeli army said its November operation had been a success, dealing a blow to Islamic Jihad and serving to increase the security of Israeli civilians and help prevent “a wider military campaign.”
An Israeli military court has sentenced a soldier to one month in jail over the killing of a Palestinian teenager after he opened fire without authorisation, the army said Wednesday.
The unnamed soldier was convicted Monday for “acting without authorisation in a manner endangering to life and well-being”, it said in a statement.
Othman Rami Halles, 15, was shot dead during protests on the Israel-Gaza border on July 13, 2018, the Palestinian health ministry said at the time.
The army said a probe had found that “the soldier fired at a Palestinian rioter who was climbing on the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip”.
The soldier, identified in Israeli media as a sniper, had opened fire “not in accordance with the rules of engagement and not in accordance with the instructions he had received”, it said.
After a plea bargain, the court sentenced the soldier to 30 days in prison with military labour and a suspended term of another 60 days, and he was demoted.
The investigation had found no evidence of a “causal link between the soldier’s fire” and the teenager’s death, the army said.
At least 311 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since protests were launched along the border of the Israeli-blockaded enclave in March 2018, the majority during the demonstrations and clashes.
Eight Israelis have been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.
Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded enclave.
The ministry said another Palestinian was hospitalised in the shooting that came after the Israeli army said an attack helicopter and tank had fired at “armed suspects” along the barrier that separates Israel from Gaza.
“We just identified a number of armed suspects from Gaza approaching the security fence with Israel. We fired towards them,” the army said a statement posted on its Twitter account.
The latest violence came after Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel late Saturday, the Israeli army said, in the second such attack in 24 hours.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The army said two of the projectiles had been intercepted by its Iron Dome aerial defence system but it did not specify what happened to the third rocket.
Air raid sirens had sounded in the southern town of Sderot and its surroundings.
On Friday Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Sderot, in what the army said was the first such attack since July 12.
In response, Israeli warplanes struck at least three targets in the Gaza Strip early on Saturday but caused no casualties, a Palestinian security source said.
The strikes hit a Hamas observation post in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, an unidentified target near Gaza City and open ground near Deir El Balah in the central part of the territory, the source said.
An Israeli army statement mentioned only two strikes, against “underground targets belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the northern and central Gaza Strip”.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.
And since March 2018, regular protests and clashes have erupted along the border of the blockaded coastal enclave.
At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes.
Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.
Palestinian leaders in Gaza announced a ceasefire with Israel on Monday to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into a fourth war between them since 2008.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes in the hours after it was due to take effect, an AFP correspondent in Gaza said.
Israel also lifted restrictions on civilian movements in communities around the Gaza border on Monday morning.
Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30 am (0130 GMT), an official from the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and another from its allied group Islamic Jihad said on condition of anonymity.
An Egyptian official also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.
It came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
At least 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed.
Four Israelis civilians were also killed.
The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel toward easing its blockade under a previous ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.
Israel at the same time faced pressure to restore calm and put an end to the rockets hitting communities in the country’s south.
It commemorates the country’s Memorial and Independence Days later this week and is due to host the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv from May 14-18, which is expected to draw thousands to Israel.
On the Gazan side, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began Monday.
Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of not taking steps to ease its blockade as promised under previous ceasefire deals.
The Islamic Jihad official said the new truce agreement was again based on Israel easing its blockade.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the ceasefire in a Monday statement, but said: “We’ve forcefully struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
“The battle is not over and demands patience and discretion,” he said.
Israeli opposition politicians — and at least one from Netanyahu’s own party — criticised the agreement.
Former military chief Benny Gantz, who challenged Netanyahu in Israel’s April 9 general elections, called it “capitulation to blackmail”.
Brink Of War
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and the escalation brought them to the brink of another.
The Palestinian dead included a commander for Hamas’s armed wing who Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in Gaza.
It was a rare admission of a targeted killing by Israel’s army.
Israel said its strikes were in response to Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing some 690 rockets or mortars since Saturday, with air defences intercepting more than 240 of them.
In addition to those killed and injured, the rockets repeatedly set off air raid alarms in southern Israel and sent residents running to shelters while also damaging houses.
The army said its tanks and planes hit some 350 militant targets in Gaza in response.
Several buildings in Gaza City were destroyed, including one Israel said included Hamas military intelligence and security offices.
Turkey said its state news agency Anadolu had an office in the building and strongly denounced the strike.
Gaza’s health ministry said the dead from the Israeli strikes included a 14-month-old baby and a pregnant woman, 37. It first identified the woman as the baby’s mother, but the family later clarified she was the aunt.
Israel strongly disputed the claim, with army spokesman Jonathan Conricus saying that based on intelligence the deaths of the woman and baby were not due to an Israeli strike.
“Their unfortunate death was not a result of (Israeli) weaponry but a Hamas rocket that was fired and exploded not where it was supposed to,” he said.
The Gazan ministry reported late Sunday that another four-month-old baby was among those killed in Israeli strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel’s army had no comment.
On Sunday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their armed wings had targeted an Israeli army vehicle with a Kornet anti-tank missile.
Conricus said a Kornet missile had hit a vehicle and killed an Israeli civilian.
Calls for Calm
Egyptian and UN officials held talks throughout to reach a truce, as they have done repeatedly in the past, and there were international calls for calm.
US President Donald Trump meanwhile assured Israel on Sunday that it had Washington’s full support against “these terrorist acts”.
The escalation followed a gradual uptick in violence that threatened a previous ceasefire, including Friday clashes along the Gaza border that were the most violent in weeks.
A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt and the United Nations, had led to relative calm around Israel’s election last month.
That truce saw Israel allow Qatar to provide millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, paying salaries and financing fuel purchases to ease severe electricity shortages.
An Israeli strike killed two Palestinian militants in the central Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry and Islamic Jihad said, raising to seven the number of Palestinians killed in the enclave on Sunday.
A ministry spokesman told AFP Mohammed abu Armanah, 30, and Mahmoud abu Armanah, 27, were killed in an Israeli strike in central Gaza, without giving further details.
Islamic Jihad confirmed the men were members of its armed wing.
Three people were killed in Israel on Sunday as Hamas and other groups fired barrages of rockets from the strip in a major escalation, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Thousands of Gazans began gathering to mark the first anniversary of mass protests along the Israeli border on Saturday, testing a fragile truce only 10 days ahead of an Israeli general election.
Egypt has sought to mediate between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas to rein in violence and avoid the sort of deadly response from the Israeli army that has accompanied past protests.
But warnings to stay far back from the heavily fortified fence that marks the border were already not being heeded by some.
“We will move towards the borders even if we die,” said Yusef Ziyada, 21, his face painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag.
“We are not leaving. We are returning to our land.”
Dozens of Palestinians were seen approaching the border fence east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip at around midday (0900 GMT) before retreating as Israeli troops fired tear gas.
The protesters threw stones at the Israeli soldiers and burnt tyres.
Further south, an Egyptian security delegation visited a protest site east of Gaza City.
The city’s mosques were using loudspeakers to call on people to attend, but rainy weather could affect turnout.
“There are about 5,500 rioters gathered at several locations along the fence,” the Israeli army said at around 1 pm (1000 GMT).
“Some of them are throwing stones and setting tyres on fire,” it said, adding soldiers were responding with “riot dispersal means.”
Before dawn Saturday, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during an overnight protest ahead of the main demonstration, the enclave’s health ministry said.
Israel’s army had not commented on the death, but late Friday said explosive devices were thrown at the fence “throughout the evening.”
A tank “struck a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip” in response, it said.
Protesters were marking the first anniversary of often violent weekly demonstrations in which around 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed.
The anniversary comes only days after another severe flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire restored calm.
The timing is especially sensitive for Israel, which holds a keenly contested general election on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a stiff challenge from centrist former military chief Benny Gantz.
He is widely seen as wanting to avoid a major escalation, but has at the same time faced political pressure over accusations of being soft on Hamas.
The protests peaked on May 14, when Israeli forces shot dead at least 62 Palestinians in clashes on the same day Washington moved its embassy to Israel to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
The demonstrators are calling for Palestinians to be allowed to return to land their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.
Israel says any such mass return would spell the end of a Jewish state and that its actions have been necessary to defend the border.
It accuses Hamas of orchestrating violence, but its soldiers’ use of live fire has come under heavy criticism.
Last month, a UN probe said Israeli soldiers had intentionally fired on civilians in what could constitute war crimes.
Two million Palestinians live in impoverished Gaza, crammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Analysts highlight desperate living conditions and lack of freedom of movement as driving forces behind the protests.
Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas, has blockaded the enclave for more than a decade, and Egypt often closes Gaza’s only other gateway to the outside world.
The UN says more than 90 percent of the water is unsafe for drinking and residents receive less than 12 hours of mains electricity a day.
Many protesters have remained far back from the fence and have demonstrated peacefully, but others have approached in numbers and clashed with soldiers.
Small groups have attached incendiary devices to balloons to float them over the border in an attempt to set fire to nearby Israeli homes and farmland.
The Israeli army has increased its presence along the border in recent days deploying several thousand troops, including dozens of snipers.
On Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza struck a house north of the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv, wounding seven people.
In response, Israel struck dozens of Hamas targets, drawing further rocket fire before calm was restored.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said Hamas was trying to use the protests to get concessions from Israel.
“Hamas seems to think that the run-up to Israeli elections, and Netanyahu’s desire to maintain calm in Gaza, has given it increased leverage,” he said.
“But as we have seen with Israel’s military build-up along the Gaza border, this could be a risky strategy.”
“In response to multiple explosive devices that were hurled and exploded during Gaza riots near Israel’s border fence this evening, an IDF aircraft targeted two Hamas observation posts in the southern Gaza Strip,” a statement from the military read.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza.
The Gaza health ministry, however, announced the death of 24-year-old Habib al-Masri, who was wounded in clashes with the Israeli army. It gave no details on when he was wounded.
On Friday, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in separate border clashes.
And on Saturday, the Israeli army launched two separate airstrikes against groups of Palestinians in Gaza who had allegedly flown balloons rigged with explosives into Israel.
The Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians had been wounded.
At least 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since weekly border protests began nearly a year ago.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya is calling for a mass turnout for border protests scheduled for the first anniversary of the demonstrations, on March 30.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group since 2007.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip but there was no agreement on how to address the crisis, diplomats said.
Kuwait, which represents Arab countries at the council, and Bolivia requested the meeting following the worst flare-up in Gaza since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.
Addressing reporters after the 50-minute meeting, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the council was “paralyzed” and had “failed to shoulder its responsibility” to take action to end the violence.
“There is one country that is not allowing discussion at the council,” Mansour told reporters, in a reference to the United States, which has taken a pro-Israeli stance under President Donald Trump.
There was no statement from the council on the crisis. Such statements are agreed by consensus by all 15 council members.
Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the majority of council members were of the view that the top UN body “should do something” and some suggested a visit to the region, but no decision was taken.
Palestinian militant groups including Hamas, which rules Gaza, issued a joint statement earlier announcing an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel.
The groups said they would abide by the truce as long as Israel did the same, but there was no immediate comment from the Israeli side.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon earlier said “we will not accept a call for both sides to exercise restraint” and laid the blame for the violence squarely on the Palestinians.
Seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza as Israeli strikes targeted militants and flattened buildings in the worst escalation of violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The latest round of violence began on Sunday with a botched Israeli special force operating inside the Gaza Strip that turned deadly and prompted Hamas to vow revenge.
Palestinian militants responded with rocket and mortar fire. An anti-tank missile hit a bus that Hamas says was being used by Israeli soldiers. A soldier was severely wounded in the attack.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and protests and clashes along the Gaza border since March 30 have repeatedly raised fears of a fourth.
The Israeli army accused the Syrian government on Saturday of ordering Palestinian militants in Gaza supported by Iran to fire dozens of rockets into southern Israel and threatened to retaliate wherever it chose.
The barrage of rockets, which began late Friday and continued into Saturday, triggered extensive retaliatory strikes by Israeli aircraft against Gaza that risked escalating into a wider conflict.
The new flare-up came hours after six Palestinians died in renewed clashes on the Gaza-Israel border even as the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas said Egypt was seeking to negotiate a return to calm.
“The rockets that were launched against Israel… we know that the orders, incentives were given from Damascus with the clear involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force,” army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said, referring to the Guards’ foreign operations unit.
At least 39 rockets have been fired at southern Israel by the Islamic Jihad group since late Friday, with 17 of them intercepted by air defences and the rest hitting open ground, the army said.
Israeli aircraft carried out extensive retaliatory strikes, targeting approximately 90 sites belonging to the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Conricus said that Israel held Hamas responsible for the fire, even though it was carried out by Islamic Jihad at the behest of Syria and its ally Iran.
“We hold Hamas responsible for everything coming from Gaza,” he said.
Conricus said Israel would also retaliate against the Syrian government and Iran’s Quds Force and would choose where.
“Part of the address by which we will deal with this fire is also in Damascus and the Quds Force,” he said. “Our response is not limited geographically.”
The biggest rocket barrage from Gaza in months came despite talk of progress towards an Egyptian-brokered deal to end months of often violent protests along the border in return for an easing of Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade.
On Sunday, Israel reopened the people and goods border crossings with Gaza and on Wednesday renewed the flow of Qatar-funded fuel to the Palestinian enclave, in an indication of its confidence that Hamas would rein in violence.
The Friday border marches, however, drew 16,000 protesters, some of them clashing with Israeli soldiers.
Five Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli fire in separate incidents along the border fence, the Gaza health ministry said.
A sixth died when a hand grenade he was holding exploded accidentally, witnesses said.
-‘Expanding the response’-
There were no reports of casualties in Gaza as a result of the Israeli air strikes, which began late Friday and continued on Saturday.
In Gaza City, a four-storey building was completely destroyed in a strike, AFP correspondents reported.
The Israeli army said it was a major headquarters of Hamas.
Israel has fought three wars since 2008 with Hamas and its allies, including Islamic Jihad, and Egypt and the United Nations have been leading diplomatic efforts to avert a fourth.
The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza, threatened to continue the rocket fire on Saturday.
The “resistance is considering expanding the response in number and type, if the enemy continues its aggression against our people,” it said.
Israel has struck Syria dozens of times in recent years, saying it is preventing Iran from supplying advanced weapons to enemies of the Jewish state.
US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt condemned the rocket fire.
“More rockets from Gaza into Israel. Another night where parents are ushering terrified children to cover. Violence will not build futures for anyone,” he said on Twitter.
Palestinians have gathered for protests along the border at least weekly since March 30.
At least 213 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began, according to figures collated by AFP.
The majority have died during protests, while smaller numbers have been killed by air strikes or tank fire.
One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper over the same period.
The protesters are calling to be allowed to return to lands their families fled or were expelled from in the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.
They are also protesting over Israel’s crippling blockade.
Reports Friday suggested a deal had been reached that would see the protests end in exchange for an easing of the blockade.
Hamas officials denied any had been reached but confirmed to AFP that progress was being made.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas, while critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents.
A barrage of rockets from Gaza hit Israel during the night, the army said Saturday, hours after five Palestinians were killed during clashes on the Israeli border, in a flare-up that could jeopardise truce efforts.
The largest projectile attacks in months and the border fatalities came despite talk of progress towards an Egyptian-brokered deal to end months of often violent protests along the border.
“Overnight, dozens of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at communities in southern Israel,” the army said in a statement, putting the exact number in a separate announcement at 30.
“The IDF’s Iron Dome aerial defence system intercepted approximately 10 projectiles,” the army said, adding that two rockets fell within the Gaza Strip while the others landed in “open areas”.
Israeli medics said seven civilians were being treated for shock.
In response to the rockets, Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and drones struck “approximately 80 Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip”.
There were no reports of Gaza casualties as a result of the strikes.
Hamas, the militant Islamist rulers of Gaza, did not claim responsibility for the rockets, but Israel holds it responsible for any launches from the coastal enclave.
“The rocket fire is conducted in a terror-filled atmosphere which is generated by Hamas in the area of the security fence and in acts such as tonight’s events,” the army said.
Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza, hailed the rocket fire in a statement as a response to “Israeli aggressions”, stopping short however of directly claiming responsibility for the launches.
A Hamas official said that following the escalation Egypt was again seeking to negotiate a return to calm.
– ‘Riot dispersal means’ –
Earlier, five Palestinians aged between 22 and 27 died in separate incidents along the border fence, the Gaza health ministry said.
The army did not comment on the deaths but said around 16,000 “rioters and demonstrators” had gathered along the border, with some setting tyres alight and hurling rocks, firebombs and grenades towards soldiers.
Troops responded with “riot dispersal means”, a spokesman added.
Three of the men were shot dead east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, while one was killed east of Jabalia in the north of the coastal territory, the health ministry said.
A fifth man died east of Bureij in central Gaza when a hand grenade he was holding exploded accidentally, witnesses said.
Palestinians have gathered for protests along the Gaza Strip’s border at least weekly since March 30.
At least 212 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began, according to figures collated by AFP.
The majority have died during protests, while smaller numbers have been killed by airstrikes and tank fire.
One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the border in the same period.
The protesters are calling to be allowed to return to lands their families fled or were expelled from in a 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel and which are now inside the Jewish state.
They are also protesting over Israel’s crippling blockade of Gaza.
Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating the often violent demonstrations.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008 and much of the international community considers the Islamist movement a terrorist organisation.
– Truce deal at risk –
The fresh violence could also scupper hopes of a deal to end the months of protests.
Egypt and the United Nations have been brokering indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel with the aim of calming the situation amid fears of another war.
Last week, a rocket fired from Gaza hit an Israeli home, narrowly avoiding killing a family. In response, the Israeli army carried out air strikes on around 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported Friday that a deal had been reached that would see the protests end in exchange for an easing of Israel’s blockade.
Hamas officials denied a deal had been struck but confirmed to AFP that progress was being made.
“We expect to reach an agreement very soon,” a senior Hamas official said earlier Friday on condition of anonymity.
Israel also fully reopened its border crossings with the Gaza Strip this week following a week of relative calm.
It allowed dozens of trucks of fuel paid for by Qatar into the strip, having previously banned their entry in response to the border violence.
Israel says the decade-long blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas, while critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents.