Army positions artillery along Israel-Gaza border

File: An Israeli artillery gun fires a 155mm shell towards targets from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ JACK GUEZ)


timesofisrael

The Israeli Army has been deploying artillery batteries along the border with Gaza amid fears of an increase in violence on the frontier.The move follows the bombing by Israeli aircraft eight days ago of Palestinian terrorists placing explosive devices along the Strip’s northern border.

One man was killed in the strike and three more were injured, according to Hamas, which claimed the attack came not from an aircraft but from an Israel Navy ship.

An army spokesman told the Ynet news site the positioning was part of normal army activity.

“We are not talking about increasing our force but about moving forces, as part of ongoing defense and in line with an annual plan for the army’s activity. No special preparations are being made for the zone,” the spokesperson said.

Artillery batteries provide a quick response to suspect activity over a wide area.

Over the past seven years, they have been used during periods of escalating tension and even then only sparingly, because of Gaza’s crowded living conditions and the fear of hitting innocents.

However, the army heavily increased its use of artillery batteries during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

During the 50 days of combat, in which over 2,100 Palestinians were killed – roughly one-half of whom appear to have been civilians – the army fired 34,000 artillery rounds; 12,000 were smoke, 3,000 were illumination, and 19,000 were explosive.

This, according to army figures, is nearly five-fold the number of shells fired during the army’s last ground and air operation in Gaza, in 2008-9, in which roughly 7,000 artillery shells were fired. The necessity and legality of the increase of fire, at an enemy that shelters itself within civilian populations, are questions that linger in the wake of Operation Protective Edge.

In early January, Israel Air Force fighter jets conducted several air raidson Hamas targets in the northern Gaza Strip after at least two rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave landed in open areas near the southern city of Sderot a short while earlier.

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