Israel, Hamas exchange mortar fire across norther Gaza border

Israel, Hamas exchange mortar fire across norther Gaza border

The Israeli military twice on Thursday struck targets in Gaza after Israelis working on the border fence came under mortar fire, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said.

Israel blamed Islamic Jihad for the mortar fire.

In a brief joint statement, Fatah and Hamas said they had asked Egypt to delay the timetable from Dec 1 so that they could "complete the arrangements to successfully conclude reconciliation steps to which the Palestinian people aspire", Reuters reported.

A number of mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli troops, and in response Israeli tanks and aircraft targeted four Hamas positions in northern Gaza, the army said.

The mortars were fired exactly a month after Israel blew up an attack tunnel that led from Gaza into Israeli in which 14 militants were killed. Witnesses in the southern Gaza Strip said two Islamic Jihad posts was hit there.


The army later said in a telephone briefing that the false alarms were caused by gunfire, and were checking if they were intentionally set off.

Sharp disagreements remained between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, particularly over the fate of public employees in Gaza and security control of the enclave.

Rival Palestinian factions agreed on Wednesday to postpone the handover of control over Gaza from Hamas to Fatah, less than 48 hours before a deadline as part of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal. But the tunnel incident also has increased friction between Israel and Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in the strip, which had threatened revenge for the deaths of its fighters.

The attack apparently set off rocket sirens in the Israeli town of Sderot and other communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

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