Five Palestinians were killed and 20 injured after a day of violence on the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and Palestinian rebels. Four died when an Israeli tank opened fire following a missile attack on an army patrol jeep, which injured four Israeli soldiers.
Hamas officials reported that the casualties were civilians attending a funeral in the Shijaia neighborhood close to Gaza City, reports the BBC.
Islamic Jihad reported that one of its members was killed later during an Israeli air strike, which Israel said was launched after more rockets were fired on them from Gaza. An Israeli military statement read:
“A short while ago, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) targeted a rocket-launching squad in the northern Gaza Strip moments after it fired rockets towards southern Israel. A direct hit was confirmed. Over the past few hours, 25 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel.”
The New York Times notes that the Gaza Health Ministry reported Israeli machine gun fire in a residential neighborhood east of Khan Younis around the same time as the four civilians were killed. The machine gun fire wounded six Palestinians, two of which were children.
Hamas has generally adhered to an informal cease-fire agreement with Israel, but they have joined more radical groups in recent months, including Islamic Jihad and several militants who were inspired by Al Qaeda, in attacking Israel to avenge the deaths of its militants in Israeli raids.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Hamas militants, threatened to respond to the shelling on Saturday. Barhoum texted reporters, saying:
“Targeting civilians is a dangerous escalation that cannot be tolerated. The resistance has the full right to respond to the Israeli crimes.”
In turn, the IDF has responded by saying, “The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”