Botched Israeli raid in Gaza sparks violent exchanges

Botched Israeli raid in Gaza sparks violent exchanges

Tensions have again flared up in the gaza strip.

The unusual turn of events, say residents of the southern city of Khan Younis, began around 9pm on Sunday evening, when several members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades - Hamas' armed wing - spotted a Volkswagen bus sitting at a corner in an isolated area and grew suspicious. In the ensuing gun battle an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) lieutenant-colonel was killed as helicopters and tanks were sent to extract the raiding party. One Israeli was also killed in Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israeli police said a rocket hit a house in Netivot, another southern Israeli town.

Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens.

Meanwhile, the Israeli fighter jets launched strikes on Gaza, killing three Palestinians.

"The special operation yesterday was not meant to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security", the @IDFspokesperson verified account tweeted.

It comes just one day after an Israeli special forces raid in the Gaza Strip saw at least two Hamas commanders and four other Palestinians killed.

Israel says it is defending its border against militant infiltrations, but its army has come under worldwide criticism because of the large number of unarmed protesters who have been shot. Truce talks, mediated by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar, are now underway between Hamas and Israel, and Netanyahu took flack last week from his political rivals for allowing Qatar to transfer $15mn to pay the salary arrears of Palestinian civil servants.

IDF said that at least 200 launches were identified, with about 60 interceptions by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.

There was also an anti-tank missile strike on an Israeli bus near the Gaza border, in which an IDF soldier was seriously wounded.

A funeral was held for the seven Palestinian militants on Monday attended by thousands, including masked Al-Qassam members carrying rifles, some firing into the air.

The renewed clashes dashed hopes that Israel and Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, would uphold a precarious ceasefire agreement recently brokered by Egypt and the United Nations and supported by Qatar.

Hamas called the operation an "assassination of a senior leader". Qassam members discovered the vehicle and chased it, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed several people, the group said. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared a screenshot of the alerts, accusing Hamas of "directly & intentionally" targeting civilians.

Residents in Gaza were shocked on Monday, telling MEE that they never imagined Israeli forces would enter the enclave.

Recent weeks have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis.

In a tweet after his arrival back home, Netanyahu praised the slain officer, whose identity was being kept confidential for security reasons, and said "our forces acted courageously".

The IDF last mobilized and fought a full-blown war against Hamas in the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge.

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