Israeli aircraft hit several sites in the Gaza Strip early Saturday including a terror tunnel and several Hamas bases after an IDF officer was wounded by a grenade during a riot on the border, the army said.
Following the air raids, Palestinian terror groups launched a barrage of at least 17 rockets or mortars into Israel.
The army said five of the launches were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. There were no reports of injuries. However, one rocket landed inside a kibbutz in the Shar HaNegev Regional Council area.
The IDF said aircraft had attacked “an offensive terror tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, in addition to several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip, among them complexes used to prepare arson terror attacks and a Hamas terror organization training facility.”
No injuries were reported in Gaza.
Following the airstrikes rocket warning sirens wailed repeatedly in Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip, including the Sdot HaNegev Regional Council area and the town of Sderot. Residents reported sounds of explosions, Israel Radio reported.
About 30 minutes after the first wave, sirens sounded again in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council area and in the Eshkol region. Residents were warned to spend the night in bomb shelters.
The army said it held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, which it has ruled since 2007.
“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty,” the army said, adding that “the IDF views Hamas’ terror activity with great severity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios.”
The violence came after an IDF officer was moderately wounded Friday afternoon when a grenade was hurled at him by assailants during clashes at the Gaza border fence, the army reported Friday night.
The military said soldiers fired back at the attackers and identified hitting them. The officer was rushed to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center and has family has been notified.
It was the most serious attack on Israeli forces in over three months of border protests, during which time soldiers have on several occasions been targeted with gunfire and bombs.
Israel has long accused Hamas of using the weekly border demonstrations as cover to carry out attacks against Israel.
Earlier the Hamas-run health ministry said a 15-year-old Palestinian was killed during the clashes with the Israeli army along the Gaza border.
It was not clear whether that incident was tied to the attack that wounded the officer.
The Israeli military said thousands took part in the demonstrations, and that soldiers were attacked with grenades, bombs, Molotov cocktails and rocks.
Troops responded with less-lethal means and fired live rounds in certain cases, including at one person who tried to cut through the security fence.
Gaza officials said 220 others were hurt in the riots. Most were treated at the scene, while several dozen were taken to hospital.
Friday’s violence was held under the banner of “Identifying with Khan al-Ahmar,” a West Bank Bedouin village whose planned demolition by Israel is being debated at the High Court.
Also Friday, two soldiers were lightly injured in a car crash near the Gaza border in the afternoon when a utility trailer connected to their vehicle overturned.
The soldiers were taking part in efforts to put out a large fire caused by an incendiary kite at Kibbutz Or Haner.
Firefighters said they managed to get the blaze under control, with the help of several teams and four firefighting planes.
Officials said 15 separate fires had erupted in the Gaza periphery since the morning due to incendiary kites and balloons. All were brought under control.
Since March 30, weekly clashes have taken place on the Gaza border, with Israel accusing Hamas of using the demonstrations as cover to carry out attacks and attempt to breach the security fence.
The “March of Return” protests have also seen Palestinians fly airborne incendiary devices toward Israeli territory, sparking hundreds of fires in southern Israel and causing millions of shekels in estimated damages.
The Israeli army has reportedly notified Hamas in recent days that if the incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip don’t cease, Israel will respond with major military action.
The threat comes amid a period of increased tension between Israel and the Gaza-ruling terror group.
On Monday, Israel announced it was shutting down the Kerem Shalom border crossing — the Strip’s main crossing for commercial goods — in response to the endless stream of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons that have been flown into southern Israel, sparking fires that have burned thousands of acres of land and caused millions of shekels in damages.
Humanitarian and essential supplies continue to enter Gaza.
The IDF has sought to avoid an escalation of hostilities on the southern front despite the attacks, but according to the Haaretz daily, the political pressure to act has been building as the economic and psychological harm caused by the fires takes its toll.