The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced Thursday that its soldiers had detonated a large improvised explosive device (IED) planted on the Israel-Gaza border fence. The army claimed that it had been placed there during a recent violent Palestinian protest.
The discovery of the IED as Israel reopened the sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip, just a week after it was closed following yet another Palestinian riot. It is thought that the placement of the IED was intended to target IDF soldiers operating in the area. The army argued that the discovery of the explosive device was yet more evidence that Hamas-ruled Gaza was not serious about maintaining the fragile ceasefire. In fact, they said, it was trying to prolong the clashes along the border.
“The planting of the explosive device by the terrorist cell under the cover of a violent demonstration is further evidence that the Hamas terror group is working to maintain the conflict in the fence area and to injure IDF soldiers, while using residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields and as cover for terrorist activities,” the army said.
“The IDF is ready for a wide range of scenarios and will operate with determination against ongoing terror attempts against IDF soldiers and security infrastructure,” the statement concluded.
The Gaza border area erupted in violence in March, with a series of protests dubbed “March of Return.” Israel laid the blame for the clashes at Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Some commentators have argued that internal pressure within Gaza and an ongoing power-dispute between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank precipitated the initial violence.
There was a significant uptick in action during the summer, when Hamas terrorists launched nearly 200 rockets into Israel over the course of a day or so.
Since the protests and riots began, 127 Palestinians have been killed. Hamas has admitted that dozens of those killed were not innocent bystanders but rather its operatives. Others have been identified as members of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, the second-largest terrorist organization in the Strip. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.
Israel has also had to contend with months of arson terrorism. It has taken the form of the deliberate burning of thousands of acres of arable land and the destruction of animal habitats and ecosystems through the indiscriminate use of flammable material attached to kites and balloons.