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Israeli airstrikes target Hamas position in Gaza Strip hours after flare-up

Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas outposts in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.
Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades
In response to the day's events, Israel halted the transfer of Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip due on Wednesday

Israeli aircrafts struck a Hamas military training camp in Gaza, hours after a renewed border flare-up stoked fears of escalation on Tuesday.

"Terrorists shot at our troops stationed along Israel’s border fence with Gaza several times throughout the day. In response, IDF fighter jets struck several terror sites in a Hamas military camp in the northern Gaza Strip," a statement from Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) said following the attacks. 

A Hamas militant was killed by Israeli tank fire in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli soldier was injured by gunfire along the southern Gaza border.

Following the retaliatory IDF fire on a Hamas observation post in central Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said one Palestinian was killed and four others injured, one seriously.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the day's events by canceling the transfer of Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip, due to arrive on Wednesday, until further notice.

The slain Palestinian was identified as 24-year-old Mahmoud al-Abed al-Nabahin who died after being struck by tank fire.

Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades

Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, confirmed he was a member of its armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Recently, the Gaza Strip's ruling militant group has responded to deaths among its brigade by launching retaliatory air attacks into Israeli territory.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said their tank attacked a Hamas observation post in response to a Palestinian opening fire on IDF soldiers responding to a disturbance that included stone-throwing.

During the disturbance, a bullet hit an IDF officer's helmet, causing light injury. The officer has since been transferred to a hospital for medical treatment.

Shortly after reports of the wounded IDF soldier, explosions were heard in the northern part of the Gaza Strip in an apparent quickfire retaliation by Israel.

Palestinian media reported IDF artillery fire in central Gaza east of the al-Bureij refugee camp had injured three "military operatives" who were evacuated to al-Aqsa Hospital.

Earlier reports claimed an IDF soldier was in moderate condition after being hit by sniper fire in the upper torso.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman immediately responded to the events in Gaza with pointed calls for a strong Israeli response.

"The Israeli government must stop giving up, groveling, and surrendering to Hamas!" Liberman tweeted.

"Today, as of now, there have already been two incidents of shooting at IDF soldiers. We must not change our agenda and we must hit Hamas hard. I call upon the government of Israel to immediately announce the cessation of the transfer of Qatari money and fuel to the Gaza Strip," the hawkish former minister continued.

AP Photo/Felipe Dana

Earlier in the day, the IDF said one of its tanks attacked a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip after Israeli soldiers were targeted by gunfire near the volatile security fence.

The IDF said that no Israeli soldiers were injured in the shooting incident, and there were no immediate reports of casualties following the artillery strike in the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli army did not indicate who it believed fired the shots, but as a policy holds Hamas responsible for all acts of aggression emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Ongoing protests along the volatile Gaza border have been relatively subdued over the past few weeks as the Islamist rulers of the impoverished enclave, anticipate the transfer of a third installment of Qatari funding designated for Hamas salary payments in coordination with Israel.

Israeli authorities had earlier issued an ultimatum to Hamas that the much needed Qatari aid package would continue to be withheld should the security situation on the border deteriorate.

Since the Hamas-orchestrated "Great March of Return" protests began on March 30, 2018 a total of 254 Gazans have been killed, according to a report published Monday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Most of the casualties have been killed by Israeli fire during border clashes, but also by air and tank strikes amid hostilities between the sides. At least 50 of the casualties have been identified as members of Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organization.

During the same period, two Israelis have been killed in the context of Gaza hostilities while another 52 suffered injuries, the UNOCHA 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.

While Israel's live-fire policy has stirred controversy, the military has said a large number of protesters killed or injured during clashes are armed with the intention of harming Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Israel insists that the border protests, which have seen tens of thousands of Gazans amass at various flash points on the fence, are not peaceful civilian demonstrations but “part of the armed conflict between the state of Israel and the Hamas terror organization."

The army has accused Hamas, with which Israel has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out attacks.

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