Israel escalates Gaza strikes in response to sniper fire that killed soldier


Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli security forces on the Gaza-Israel border, July 20, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

(JTA) — In the heaviest fighting between the two sides since the 2014 war, Israel hit Hamas targets across Gaza on Friday in response to sniper fire at its troops on the border that killed one soldier.

At around 6 p.m., amid Palestinian protests on the Gaza border, a sniper in Gaza shot at troops. One soldier succumbed from his severe injuries.

Israel responded with two rounds of heavy airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. The first killed four members of Hamas, the terror group that governs Gaza. The second barrage was heavier, striking a range of military targets, including 15 in a headquarters compound in northern Gaza with munitions stores, training sites and command posts, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Tensions have been high since May, when more than 50 Palestinians died in clashes amid protests on the Gaza border. In the weeks since, a steady stream of arson attacks across the border have set fire to swaths of Israeli farmland. Gazans say they are protesting Israel’s blockade of the territory, as well as pushing for a return to their ancestors’ homes in Israel.

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The last time Hamas and Israel fought, in 2014, the war lasted 50 days. More than 2,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis died in the fighting, which saw an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza and thousands of missile strikes at Israeli towns and cities.