IDF closes Zikim beach and restricts public gatherings; IDF Major injured by grenade thrown from Gaza on Friday.

Palestinian terrorists

The Israel Air Force struck two Hamas terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip following several barrages of rockets and mortar shells towards southern Israeli border communities overnight on Friday.

“The IAF fighter jets attacked a Hamas terror tunnel in the Southern Gaza Strip as well as several targets in military compounds, among them locations where the Hamas terror organization assembles incendiary balloons and a Hamas training camp,” read a statement by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“The IDF retaliated to the terror attacks that were committed during the violent riots on the Gaza border fence on Friday and the ongoing balloon terrorism,” it added.

The airstrikes came as incoming rocket sirens were repeatedly activated in communities in the Sha’ar HaNegev, Sdot Negev, Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon Regional Councils as well as in Ashkelon’s Industrial Zone beginning at 1.36 AM.

The military said that the Iron Dome Missile Defense System intercepted six of 31 projectiles which were fired from the Hamas-run enclave.  One projectile landed inside a kibbutz in the Shar HaNegev Regional Council area. There was no damage or injuries reported.

Nevertheless, in wake of the rocket and mortar fire the IDF closed the Zikim beach on Saturday and restrict gatherings of more than 100 people in open spaces and more than 500 people in closed spaces across the Gaza border communities.

According to official Palestinian news agency WAFA, IAF jets struck sites across the entire Gaza Strip, causing significant damage and lightly injuring one Palestinian in the Beit Hanoun area in northern Gaza.

The IDF said that Hamas, which is responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, “continues with its terror acts against troops and against security infrastructures attempting to hurt Israel’s citizens.”

The military accused Hamas as using Gazan civilians as human shields and continues to endanger them by carrying out terror attacks against Israel.

“It is a grave violation of Israel’s sovereignty. Hamas’s actions endanger Israel’s citizens and IDF soldiers as well as hurt Gaza’s residents by sabotaging the humanitarian efforts which Israel enables,” read the statement released by the IDF.

“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty. The IDF views Hamas’ terror activity with great severity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios,” the army said.

The strikes came hours after violent clashes took place along the security fence separating Israel and the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave over the course of the day on Friday.

During the clashes an IDF major was moderately injured by a grenade thrown at him and his troops by Palestinians rioters  near the old Karni crossing near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.  He was hit by shrapnel in his upper body and airlifted to the Soroko Medical Center in stable condition.

In response the troops opened fire towards the Palestinians who threw the grenade with one hit  identified.

The IDF is investigating the incident which is one of the most serious to have occured since the weekly demonstrations began on March 30 as part of what organizers have called the “Great March of Return.”

Demonstrators have launched hundreds of kites, balloons and helium-filled latex condoms with incendiary and explosive devices on a daily basis into Israeli territory, sparking fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

Hamas officials have said that the protests, which also demand an end to a grinding Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, will continue until their demands are met.

According to official Palestinian news agency Wafa, two Palestinian youth were killed Friday and another 200 were injured.  The two fatalities were identified as Mohammad Nasser Shurrab, 20, from Khan Younis and 15-year-old Othman Rami Halles.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza said their deaths brings the total killed by Israel since the start of the protests at the Gaza border to 139.