(Annews24)-An exchange of gunfire erupted during an Israeli military raid in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, leaving six Palestinians dead including a commander in Hamas’s military wing, while potentially dashing hopes that a recent agreement might restore calm.
Netanyahu cuts short visit to Paris, returns home after violent clash that also kills an Israeli soldier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Paris and was returning to Israel after the violence erupted, a spokesman said. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman was holding consultations at military headquarters, his office said in a statement cited by Reuters.
“During operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved. More details to follow,” an Israeli army statement said, later adding that an Israeli soldier had also been killed in the clash.
Palestinian security sources said the clash occurred east of Khan Yunis, where six people were killed and seven wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Local reports in Gaza said Israeli planes fired missiles near the incident.
In a statement, Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Israeli undercover forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated three kilometers into Gaza and fatally shot one of its commanders, the Wahington Post reported. It said militants discovered the car and chased it down, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed “a number of people.”
Netanyahu cuts short Paris trip as Gaza fighting rages https://t.co/GEjTUSrOrA
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) November 11, 2018
During the pursuit, Israeli aircraft fired more than 40 missiles in the area, witnesses told Reuters.
A Hamas spokesman denounced a “cowardly Israeli attack.”
After the clash erupted, sirens were reported in southern Israel, indicating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, AFP said.
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Residents of Israeli communities near Gaza said the scope of these airstrikes was exceptional and “sounded almost like a war,” Haaretz said. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at lease two projectiles during the subsequent exchange of fire. Residents of Gaza border communities received directions to remain near shelter.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said all Israeli soldiers involved had returned to Israel. “IDF operated in the Gaza Strip, exchange of gunfire ensued,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Israel Defence Forces. “All IDF soldiers back in Israel. Several alarms have sounded in southern Israel.” Gaza’s Health Ministry reported the slain Palestinians were: Hamas commander Nour al-Din Muhammad Salama Baraka, 37; Mohammed Majid ,
Mousa Al-Qara, 23; Alaa al-Din Muhammad Qwaider, 22; Mustafa Hassan Mohammed Abu Odeh, 21; Mahmoud Attallah Musabeh 25, and Alaa Fawzi Mohammed Fseifes, 19.
The clash comes after months of protests and bloodshed along the Gaza-Israel separation fence had appeared to be calming.
Recent weeks have seen Israeli decisions to 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 late October, Israel and Qatar reached an agreement for Doha to send funds to pay Gaza’s civil servants, who hadn’t been paid since September 2013.
Netanyahu had earlier defended his decision to allow Qatar to transfer the cash to Gaza despite criticism from within his own government, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it wasn’t necessary.
“I’m doing what I can, in coordination with the security establishment, to return quiet to the southern communities, but also to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said late Saturday, referring to Israeli towns near the Gaza border and deteriorating conditions in the enclave.
Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s education minister and right-wing rival, compared the cash flow to “protection money” paid to criminals.
Lieberman said he had opposed “transferring the money to Hamas”.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and recent months of unrest have raised fears of a fourth.