The Israeli air force has launched a series of air strikes on several places in the Gaza Strip.
The targets, allegedly belonging to Hamas, were attacked as a result of Friday’s shooting incidents in which at least one Israeli soldier was wounded.
Israeli soldiers have been put on high alert, the spokesperson for the Israeli army added.
|Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City [Ahmed Zakot/Reuters]|
Tense day of protests
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the protests in Gaza, said tensions were on the rise despite the relatively small crowd that showed up.
“We haven’t seen huge numbers of people turn out – yes, there’s been a presence, yes the protest took shape the way we have seen over the past 17 weeks but the crowds were smaller,” Dekker said.
“What makes it more tense is there has been an exchange … of fire between Israel and Hamas, and Israel attacked various Hamas posts,” she added.
“This all comes amid a very tense political situation. Israel has made it very clear that if Hamas doesn’t stop the incendiary balloons and kites across the fence that it will clamp down heavily militarily.
“We haven’t seen any incendiary balloons or kites across the fence where we are, but certainly there is a feeling of unease here – there might be behind-the-scenes negotiations going on, but everyone you speak to will tell you that the situation remains very hard to read, whether there is going to be an escalation between the two sides or not,” Dekker said.
Israeli forces kill fourth Palestinian
Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian during the protests in the Gaza Strip near the fence with Israel, raising the number of Palestinians killed on Friday to four.
The death of Mohammed Badwan east of Gaza City was reported by health officials after Hamas said three of its members were killed earlier in the day in air strikes in the southern part of the Strip.
Three Palestinians killed on tense day of protests
As protests along the fence with Israel entered the 17th straight week, Israel on Friday attacked Hamas positions in the Strip, killing at least three people, according to health officials in Gaza.
“Three Palestinians were martyred by Israeli occupation forces, including two in the northern Gaza Strip and a third in the southern city of Rafah,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement.
He did not provide the names or ages of the individuals.
However, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, said three of its members had been killed by Israeli air strikes and tank fire in Khan Younis and Rafah.
In a statement, the group identified the men as Shaaban Abu Khater, Mohamed Abu Farhana and Mahmoud Qeshta.
The Israeli army said the attacks were in response to shots being fired at their troops along the Gaza fence.
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the protests in Gaza, said tensions were on the rise.
“We’ve had a couple of incidents today. We’ve had Israel target three Hamas watchtowers. In the south of Gaza, two Palestinians were killed and one Israeli soldier was injured in what we understand was an exchange of fire in the southern Gaza Strip,” Dekker said.
“The shooting across the border, the gunfire, the tank shelling – it shows that this is politically not resolved and it could still go any way really.”
Earlier on Friday, Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Liebermann said that there is a risk of military escalation if incendiary kites and balloons continue to be sent over the fence by protesters.
Those devices have led to thousands of acres of Israeli land to be burtn.
“We tried to be sensible and responsible but the heads of Hamas are leading us to a defensive situation, a situation where we would have to go for a wide painful military operation,” Liebermann said.