An Israeli tank fired at a Hamas position Tuesday after Gazans infiltrated the Jewish state and torched a military post before returning to the Palestinian enclave, the army said.
“A number of terrorists infiltrated into Israel and set a military post on fire. In response, an (Israeli) tank targeted an observation post belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the southern Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement.
The Israeli position was unmanned at the time, the army said, which could not confirm reports it was a sniper tent.
There were no reports of casualties from Gaza.
In a separate incident, a drone from northern Gaza landed in Israel overnight and was being “examined,” the army said.
Tensions between Israel and Gaza have been high since March 30, when Palestinians began protesting for the right to return to the homes their families fled or were expelled from in 1948, during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.
A total of at least 118 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since then, according to authorities in Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
No Israelis have been killed in that timeframe.
The protests peaked on May 14, the day the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tens of thousands protested on the Gaza border that day, with 62 killed by Israeli gunfire.
Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.
It accuses Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
An Israeli tank fired at a Hamas position in northern Gaza on Wednesday, the army said, after militants in the Palestinian enclave shot at soldiers.
The exchange of fire east of Jabalia came after weeks of mass protests and clashes on the Gaza border, which peaked on Monday when some 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. Protests since then have dwindled.
In response to the gunfire, Israeli troops “targeted a military post belonging to the Hamas terror organisation with tank fire,” the army said in a statement, noting no soldiers were wounded.
A Palestinian security source in Gaza confirmed the target was a Hamas observation point, saying the Israeli attack resulted in no injuries.
Palestinians have held demonstrations on the border since March 30 for what they call the right of return. Monday’s protests were also against the move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
During the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes.
The protests have peaked on Fridays, with the numbers of demonstrators ranging from thousands to tens of thousands.
Small groups have approached the border fence, throwing stones, burning tyres and hurling Molotov cocktails. Some have tried to break through the fence.
Israel has faced international criticism over its use of live fire but insists its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Hamas leadership “a bunch of cannibals that treat their children as ammunition.”
Speaking at an army base near the Gaza border, Lieberman said the goal of Hamas was “to remove the siege (over Gaza) but not to build their economy or create coexistence,” he said, referring to the Israeli blockade of the strip.
He argued their aims were rather “to smuggle arms, continue building their military force and create another upgraded Hezbollah model,” referring to the armed Lebanese group.
Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.
The White House blamed Hamas for violent protests in Gaza that saw 52 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces Monday, saying the Jewish state has the right to defend itself.
At least 52 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes prompted in part by fury over Trump’s sensitive relocation of the diplomatic mission, whose inauguration went ahead despite the violence.
Though US President Donald Trump did not go to Israel himself, sending his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as part of a somewhat low-key delegation, he was clearly happy about the fulfilment of his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as its capital.
The Republican president announced the embassy move on December 6, which immediately drew a chorus of international disapproval — and violent protests.
“Big day for Israel. Congratulations!” Trump said via Twitter.
“We celebrate history in the making,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “America stands with Israel!”
But their tweets made no mention of the deadly reality on the ground, and for hours, official Washington remained silent about the bloodshed.
Eventually, in an afternoon press briefing, the White House addressed the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years — and blamed the fatalities on the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters.
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” he said, adding that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
‘Proud to celebrate’
Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest of issues in any final status negotiations to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The deadly unrest has sparked an international outcry, and calls by Western nations such as Britain for Israel to use restraint.
The White House was focused elsewhere. In a statement, it stressed how “quickly and efficiently” Trump’s vision to relocate the embassy was realized, after several of his predecessors had sided with diplomatic tradition and left the embassy in Tel Aviv.
Many in the American political class, including top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, applauded Trump’s move, widely interpreted as a gesture to his electoral base including evangelicals.
The tone contrasted with images of the bloody Gaza protests occurring less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Jerusalem embassy inauguration ceremony.
In a statement issued after the death toll had exceeded 40, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made no mention of the violence, preferring instead to announce he was “proud to celebrate the opening” of the embassy.
Kushner, speaking in Jerusalem, addressed the unrest, saying “those provoking violence are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.”
US officials have reaffirmed their support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, even saying Trump’s embassy decision would help advance resolution of the conflict.
“We remain committed to advancing a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said.
Trump, who addressed the embassy opening via video message, had pledged to jumpstart a moribund peace process.
He entrusted the delicate mission to Kushner, his senior aide, who began negotiations with the two sides and was, according to several sources, set to unveil in early 2018 a peace plan that was being drafted in secret.
But the December 6 announcement on Jerusalem essentially froze the negotiations.
Furious Palestinian leaders are now refusing to speak to the American side.
And the “Kushner Plan” has never been presented, leading foreign diplomats to doubt its very existence.
The White House insisted it would release its peace plan in due time, and stressed it would not be derailed by Monday’s deaths, which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned as Israeli “massacres.”
“I don’t think it hurts the peace plan,” Shah said of the violence. “The peace plan will be introduced at the appropriate time.”
Israel’s military hit Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip on Thursday after Palestinians set off two bombs near the border fence, the military said, with no casualties reported.
Israel’s military also said it suspected based on surveillance video there was “an attempt” to fire rocket-propelled grenades toward its forces, but nothing was hit.
If confirmed, it would be the first time such weapons were used by Gaza militants against Israeli forces since a 2014 war, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
A security source from Hamas, the Islamist movement which runs the Gaza Strip, said that one Israeli round hit an observation post near the border, causing damage but no casualties.
He said that earlier, shortly after sunrise, there were explosions near the border. Israel said two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated some 100 metres away from the fence on the Gaza side.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts and Israel said it could not say who was behind it, though it held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel said the IEDs were detonated “toward” soldiers in a vehicle on the Israeli side of the fence near the northeastern Gaza Strip at around 6:00 am.
“It appears that there was also an attempt to fire RPG rockets toward the force,” Conricus said.
“We don’t have the final confirmation of that yet, but that is currently our working assumption.”
Israel’s army then hit what it said were four military positions in the strip belonging to Hamas and Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad with tank fire and another with air power, Conricus said.
Israel also warned Hamas not to use civilian protests that occur near the border fence as cover to carry out attacks against its forces.
Beginning on March 30, Gazans are planning to erect hundreds of tents near the Israeli border for a six-week show of support for Palestinian refugees.
On February 17, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an improvised explosive device on the border, sparking intense military retaliation.
Israel warplanes attacked 18 “terror targets belonging to Hamas” in Gaza in response to the blast, which severely wounded two of the soldiers, and a subsequent Palestinian rocket attack on southern Israel.
The following day, troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers near the border, Gaza medical sources said.
The Israeli army said at the time that soldiers fired “warning shots” at a number of Palestinians approaching the border fence “in a suspicious manner” but could not confirm Palestinian casualties.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008. The strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade.
The Islamist movement Hamas on Saturday accused the Palestinian Authority of blocking a landmark unity deal and called for a lifting of its sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
“We demand that the government of (prime minister) Rami Hamdallah assume its responsibilities in full and lift the unjust sanctions imposed on our people in Gaza,” said Hamas, the faction which controls the coastal enclave.
The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel for a decade, while its only other land border — with Egypt — has also been largely sealed in recent years.
In addition, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmud Abbas has imposed a string of punitive measures against Gaza, where basic infrastructure for its two million residents is severely lacking.
Residents receive only a few hours of electricity per day, and UN officials have said the densely-populated and impoverished territory is becoming rapidly unliveable.
The PA, dominated by Fatah, was scheduled to take over control of Gaza by December 1 under a landmark unity deal signed in October, but the deadline passed with the two factions accusing each other of not respecting the accord.
In its statement Saturday, Hamas charged that the Palestinian government based in the West Bank had “made no effort to lift the sanctions and ease the sufferings of the people of Gaza”.
The PA, in a statement of its own, dismissed the charges as “irresponsible”.
Abbas’s PA, seeking to squeeze Hamas, has in recent months reduced the amount it pays Israel for electricity to be piped to Gaza.
The Hamas statement referred to the electricity shortages and the fate of tens of thousands of civil servants hired by Hamas, which seized the enclave in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah.
On Wednesday, PA employees were prevented from returning to work at a number of ministries in Gaza, and the handover of power in Gaza has been delayed by at least 10 days.
It is now expected to take place on December 10, following talks later Saturday in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah, sources closes to both factions have said.
The Palestinian movement Hamas on Saturday elected Ismail Haniyeh to head its political office, a leadership change that comes as the Islamist group looks to reconcile with Palestinian rivals.
Haniyeh, a former deputy chief, will replace Qatar-based veteran Khaled Meshaal, who steps down at the end of his term limit just as Hamas appeared to have softened its stance towards Israel in a new policy document last week.
The group maintains a sizeable armed wing in the Gaza Strip since seizing the coastal territory in 2007 from the rival Fatah party, which is based in the West Bank, and has fought three wars with Israel.
Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union. Some political analysts and U.N. officials believe a more regular engagement with Hamas’s political wing could help moderate the group’s overall position.
Hamas last week dropped its longstanding call for Israel’s destruction and severed ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in a policy shakeup announced at its main overseas office in the Qatari capital.
The move, dismissed by Israel, appeared aimed at improving ties with Gulf states and Egypt as Abbas visited new U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, who expressed interest in renewing Israeli-Palesitinian peace efforts.
“It is very important for everyone to know that this document did not come as a result of pressures from any side, it is the result of the preparations of this movement through the past four years. Today, we announced it clearly and informatively,” Haniyeh said of the new policy document.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, has showered praises on Nigeria’s national female football team the Super Falcons emerging as champions of Africa for the eighth time after beating host nation Cameroon.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, Dogara said that by winning the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, the Super Falcons have made the country proud.
He said that the Super Falcons played classic Nigerian soccer exhibiting the true Nigerian spirit of resilience and hardwork and described them as patriots.
The Speaker specifically commended Desire Oparanozie who scored the only goal that saw the Falcons beat the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroun on their home soil.
He noted that by weathering the storm in all stages of the competition, the Super Falcons displayed an uncommon spirit of patriotism to Nigeria.
“You have not only earned yourself a place in our history and advanced your careers as athletes but your victory today is a victory to all Nigerians.
“We are proud of all the players and members of the technical crew more especially Florence Omagbemi who made history as the first to win the championship as a player and a coach,” he said.
Nigeria scored 13 goals in the tournament, conceding one, with Asisat Oshoala emerging as the highest goal scorer.
The President, who described the hard-earned victory over the Indomitable Lionesses as “very sweet and well-deserved,” particularly commended the Nigerian women for their “indomitable spirit, resilience and team work” which spurred them to victory in spite of a vociferous home crowd.
President Buhari notes that the Nigerian team achieved “this feat of being African champions for the 8th time,” a development he says has lifted the spirits of sports-loving Nigerians.
He enjoined other Nigerian sportsmen and women to emulate the exemplary attitude of the Super Falcons who placed the interest of the nation above personal interests, while assuring that the Federal Government will not relent in doing its best to promote sports within available resources.
The President alsoacknowledged the technical competence of the coaching crew, which enabled the Nigerian players to overcome their hard-fighting opponents throughout the competition.
The Super Falcons of Nigeria are champions of Africa for the eight time with Desire Oparanozie scoring the lone goal for Nigeria in the 84th minute.
Coach of the Nigerian team, Florence Omagbemi, also made history by becoming the first individual to win the AWCON as a player and a coach.
Nigeria scored 13 goals in the tournament, conceding one, with Asisat Oshoala emerging as the highest goal scorer.