JERUSALEM (JTA) — On the eve of the second anniversary of the Gaza war, violence between Israel and the Palestinians has heated up on the border between Israel and Gaza.
Two rockets fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on Sunday, just hours after Israel fired on several Palestinians accused of planting explosives along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. A combined force of Israel Air Force helicopters and an armored force fired at the suspects and confirmed direct hits, according to an Israeli military statement.
Two Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed, according to reports.
The statement noted that a number of explosive devices were detonated near Israel Defense Forces troops on patrol during the last month.
"The presence of Palestinian civilians in the area adjacent to the security fence is used by terrorist organizations as cover for their activities, including planting explosive devices, planning terrorist attacks and attempting to kidnap IDF soldiers. For this reason, the IDF will not allow anyone to be present in this area," the statement said.
Overnight on Dec. 25, the air force struck what the Israeli military called an "active terror center" in the northern Gaza Strip and a smuggling tunnel in the south. The strikes, according to a military statement, were in response to "the continued rocket fire against Israel’s southern communities. During the past week alone, twenty-four mortar shells and three Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza."
Over the weekend, Hamas threatened to escalate the conflict.
"There is a truce in effect in the field," a masked member of Hamas’ military wing said during a news conference in Gaza City, AFP reported. "It is real if Israel stops its aggression and ends its siege. But if there is any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, we will respond strongly
"We are completely ready to answer any Israeli aggression," said the Hamas man, who was identified as Abu Obeideh.
Israel has threatened to respond to any aggression from Gaza.