By Middle East Affairs
An Israeli air strike on Thursday killed a Hamas gunman and wounded one, AFP reported, as protests along the Gaza-Israel border are raising tensions in the region.
Israel said Hamas, the armed group in control of Gaza, carried out a bomb attack Wednesday on a military vehicle on the Gaza border, and there were no casualties, but Israel retaliated with an air strike. Gunmen shot at the aircraft, Reuters said, and the Israeli military fired back in response.
Mohammed Hijaila was killed and another man seriously wounded, according to the health ministry Gaza. AFP said the ministry confirmed he was a member of Hamas’ militant wing.
A security source told AFP that Hijaila was one of several Hamas fighters manning an observation point east of Gaza City when it was struck.
Tensions have been high since the “Great March of Return” began March 30. It’s a six-week long protest in which Palestinians have set up tent camps near the Gaza-Israel border with the aim of drawing international attention to the conflict of reclaiming their land. On Fridays the Palestinians intensify their protests by setting tires on fire and approaching the border, which has Israeli troops on the other side with snipers.
Both sides are preparing for the demonstrations this Friday – the third round until it peaks in mid-May, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, which Reuters said Palestinians “mourn.”
The Israeli army was given orders to make sure no one breaches or damages the border, which has led to 30 unarmed Palestinians shot and killed since the protests began. Israel maintains that most of the protesters were actually militants trying to stir up violence and that Hamas is using the protests as a decoy for attacks it wants to deploy across the border fence.