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Israeli warplanes blast Hamas positions in Gaza

Attack comes after cross-border raid by Palestinians on heavy equipment used for work on frontier barrier
Hamas outpost on Gaza Strip border behind separation wall built by Israel (AFP/file photo)

Israeli jets attacked Hamas positions in Gaza overnight after Palestinians staged a cross-border raid into southern Israel, the military said early Sunday.

"Israel Air Force fighter jets targeted a terror target in a military compound belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip," it said in an English-language statement. 

A Palestinian security source in the coastal enclave said the planes hit a base of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, causing damage but no injuries.

The strike on the Strip's Islamist rulers came after four Palestinians "carrying bottles filled with flammable material" breached Gaza's border fence on Saturday evening near the kibbutz of Kissufim, Israeli daily Haaretz reported, citing the army.

There, they attempted to torch heavy equipment used for work on the frontier barrier, an army spokeswoman told AFP.

The machinery was damaged but did not catch fire, and the attackers fled back into Gaza, she said.

No casualties were reported.

"The incident that took place yesterday is one of many severe incidents that have taken place in the security fence area," the statement said.

Last summer, Israel began construction on a massive security barrier meant to tackle the threat posed by tunnels that Hamas builds from Gaza into Israel, Haaretz said.

The project, estimated to cost $833m, will include a concrete wall fitted with sensors and reaching dozens of metres deep into the ground and standing six meters high from ground level, according to Haaretz. 

Israel holds Hamas, which rules Gaza, accountable for all attacks launched from the blockaded coastal territory.

Security barrier

Speaking later Sunday, the head of Israeli military intelligence warned that further such incidents would make things worse for Hamas.

"Hamas is at a low point, suffering severe civilian and infrastructure crises," Major General Herzl Halevi said at a conference.

"Hamas is running into the arms of Iran and exploiting civilians by sending them to the (security fence that divides Gaza and Israel)," he said.

"Hamas must understand such conduct will only make its situation worse."

Last month there was a surge in cross-border violence, seen as among the most serious since Israel and Hamas fought a war in 2014 - their third since 2008.

After a bomb wounded four Israeli soldiers inspecting the border fence on 17 February, Israel responded by striking 18 Hamas facilities in two waves of air attacks.

Israeli ground forces also killed two Palestinian teenagers in cross-border fire.

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