IDF says earlier strike killing two Hamas militants made in error: report
MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP/File)
Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) admitted that earlier shootings from Hamas did not target Israeli soldiers which caused IDF to strike back, killing two Hamas militants, Israel's Channel 10 reported on Tuesday.
Channel 10 cited IDF Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the army’s Southern Command, saying the shootings were not aimed at IDF's Rotem battalion of the Givati infantry brigade but were part of a Hamas naval exercise.
Earlier on Tuesday, IDF said its troops came under fire while patrolling the north Gaza border.
"A short while ago, terrorists fired shots towards IDF soldiers near the northern Gaza Strip from a Hamas post," the military said in a statement.
"In response, an IDF tank targeted the post from which the shots were fired. The post belongs to the Hamas terror organization."
No injuries to Israeli soldiers were reported as a result of the gunfire.
Following the strike, Hamas' Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades announced that two of its members were killed in the strike, naming them as Ahmad Margan and Abdel Hafex Al-Silawi, both 23-years-old and from the Jabalia refugee camp.
Palestinian reports said the two were killed when IDF artillery struck a graduation ceremony of al-Qassam members at a Hamas base Askelan, northern Gaza, where senior Hamas figures were in attendance.
The deceased reportedly belonged to Hamas' elite al-Nukhba commando unit.
Raw footage: Hamas terrorists shooting at IDF troops from an outpost in the Gaza Strip pic.twitter.com/3ybzw8w3jW— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 7, 2018
"The IDF is prepared to target any aggression against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for everything happening in and from the Gaza Strip," the army said.
"The resistance can not be handed over to the occupation by imposing a policy of bombing sites and targeting the resistance without paying the price," Fawzi Barhoum Hamas' spokesperson stated in response to the strike.
"We consider it extremely dangerous that Israel intentionally targets a site of the Al-Qassam Brigades."
The incident coincided with ongoing cease-fire discussions, mediated by Egypt and the United Nations, between Hamas and Israel with the aim of averting a fresh war and boosting Gaza’s ailing economy.
The Israeli security cabinet discussed the issue at length Sunday, but did not make any public comment on any decisions made at the meeting.
Both Hamas and Fatah officials have been back and forth to Cairo in recent weeks to discuss the deal, which also aims to produce a reconciled government in the Palestinian territories.
Hamas has reportedly agreed to a three-stage deal proposed by the international interlocutors, but Fatah, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, has not given their approval for the plans.
Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper published a report Thursday that cited unnamed sources as disclosing some of the key tenets of the proposal before Israel and Hamas, an Islamist group proscribed as a terror organization in the United States and European Union.
According to the report, the first phase of the arrangement could begin in a week and would include a commitment by Hamas to end the launching of incendiary kites and balloons toward Israel and infiltration across the border fence in exchange for Israel fully opening the Kerem Shalom goods crossing into Gaza.
A second phase would be a commitment for Israel to boost electricity supply into the enclave and a dramatic easing of the economic blockade imposed by Jerusalem and Cairo.
A third phase would include the construction of a new port and even airport in Egyptian territory, just across from the Gaza border, as well as a new power station to alleviate the territory’s crippling energy shortages.
Negotiations for the return of fallen IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens held captive by Hamas would be on the table as part of the final phases of the agreement, reports said.
Hamas is holding hostage at least two Israeli civilians who crossed into Gaza during episodes of poor mental health, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in action.
The push for a long-term ceasefire agreement follows months of clashes between Israel and Hamas, marked by a surge in cross-border arson attacks, rocket fire, and violent clashes which brought the sides to the brink of a full-scale war in two separate military flare-ups in July.
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