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'Night confusion units' return to Gaza border for clashes with Israeli troops

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel was entering a new phase of construction for a Gaza security barrier on Sunday, February 3 2019.
Spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office
Local media claimed Hamas intends to slowly escalate border clashes ahead of Israel's elections in April

Dozens of Palestinians on Monday returned to the northern Gaza Strip under cover of darkness for another round of night confrontations with Israeli forces.

Palestinian media reported that, in addition to burning tires and throwing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), some of the rioters played fake red alert sirens to confuse Israeli forces and residents near the Gaza border.

Several Gazans were reportedly injured after an IED exploded prematurely among rioters.

Earlier in the day, Gaza-based media announced that explosions heard near the border resulted from incendiary balloons sent from Gaza detonating before reaching Israel.

In recent months, Gaza's "kite terror" operations have been relatively nonexistent, after a period where incendiary balloons and kites sent across the border caused millions of shekels in damage to a large swath of Israel's southern territory.

On Sunday Gaza-based "night confusion units" intensified their activities on Israel's border, with Palestinian media reporting IEDs and other objects were thrown at IDF troops.

Hamas and other Gaza militants have resumed nightly clashes with IDF troops after a lull of several months under the ceasefire to a deadly escalation in the months-long “Great March of Return” movement -- during which weekly mass demonstrations and nightly activities have transpired into deadly clashes with Israeli troops.

"Night confusion units," comprised mostly of young men, lit tires and reportedly used laser pointers in order to obscure Gaza’s side of the fence from Israeli troops, according to a report from Shehab Agency, the official news outlet of Gaza’s Hamas government.

The report said several dozen Palestinians near the Jabalia refugee camp began preparing Sunday evening around 5:00pm for “night confrontations” with IDF forces on the Strip’s northern border.

Meanwhile, later in the evening reports emerged that the had IDF arrested and subsequently detained an unarmed Palestinian attempting to swim across the sea border from the coastal enclave into Israel.

Shortly after, unconfirmed reports in Israeli media suggested that a rocket fired at Israel had failed to make its way across the border, exploding in the Gaza Strip. Explosions were heard in Israel's Kissufim area, according to Walla! news.

Israel views Hamas - both its "politburo" and military wing - as the sole bearer of responsibility for any activity occurring in Gaza or emanating from it. However, since March 2018, when Hamas took control of the "Great March of Return" movement, a number of escalations that saw rockets launched at Israel were claimed by other armed factions in Gaza.

(AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad released a statement saying it is pushing for the Great March of Return protests to be paused for the time being in order to consider the movement’s recent deadly consequences.

Hamas’ lack of comment on PIJ’s remarks and its initiation of night activities could mean it does not agree that its “resistance operations” should stop despite the death of two Gazan teens in Friday’s violent border clashes.

On Friday, nearly 10,000 Palestinians amassed in five different areas on Gaza’s border with Israel, with several casualties on the Gazan side said to have been caused by IEDs blowing up amongst demonstrators.

"Terrorist organizations have once again proven their willingness to risk demonstrators to use terrorist means of improvised explosive devices between them," a statement from the IDF’s spokesperson in Arabic read.

Since March 2018, 254 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops, according to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

SAID KHATIB (AFP)

Most of the Palestinian casualties resulted from Israeli fire during weekly border clashes, while some occurred during Israeli strikes in the territory. At least 50 of the casualties have been identified as members of Hamas, which Israel (and the US) consider a terrorist organization.

During the same period, two Israelis were killed in the context of Gaza hostilities while another 52 suffered injuries, the report said.

One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper during border demonstrations while another died in a botched special forces operation inside the blockaded enclave.

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