An Israeli military tank a Hamas post in the Gaza Strip Saturday afternoon, Palestinian media reported, shortly after an airborne arson device hit Israel and sparked a fire.
There was no immediate confirmation of the strike by the army.
The incendiary device launched from the enclave fell near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, east of northern Gaza.
It was the second tank shell strike in the day. Earlier a tank fired at a Hamas observation point east of Gaza City, saying it was retaliation for an attempted border infiltration in northern Gaza. The suspects returned to the enclave, according to the army. There were no reports of Palestinian casualties.
Nevertheless, a ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held in place Saturday after a wave of air strikes across the enclave a day earlier, sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot by Palestinian snipers at the border.
Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza’s Islamist rulers, which went into effect around midnight Friday reducing fears of a wider conflict.
Earlier a senior Israeli diplomatic official told Hebrew-language media that Hamas has vowed to halt airborne arson attacks against Israel going forward.
The unnamed official claimed “Hamas suffered a serious blow yesterday, and requested a ceasefire via Egypt, while promising to stop the arson terror and terror at the border fence.”
He added that Egypt was serving as a guarantor for Hamas, but noted that “what happens on the ground will determine where things go. If Hamas breaks [the truce] it will pay an even greater price.”
A senior Hamas official told AFP Friday that the deal involved “the cessation of all forms of military escalation” including Israeli air strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets.
But the Hamas source claimed incendiary balloons and kites, which Palestinians have been floating over the border for months to spark fires inside Israel, were not included in the agreement.
The ongoing kite and balloon attacks have burned thousands of dunams of forests and agricultural land adjacent to the Gaza border in recent months.
Israel’s top leadership convened late into the night Friday at military headquarters to discuss potential actions.
The IDF’s chief spokesman Ronen Manelis did not rule out a major ground offensive, but said the IDF was not looking to enter a full-scale conflict. Nonetheless, the fire on the troops at the border was “the most serious incident” since the 2014 conflict, Manelis said, and the IDF’s Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had spent the years since then ensuring that the army was ready for “whatever response is necessary.”
Reports said Israeli special forces had been stationed near border communities to prevent possible Hamas attacks through attack tunnels dug into Israel.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, told AFP another round of conflict remained highly possible.
“The ceasefire is crucial and shows neither side wants war but it’s only temporary reprieve,” he said.
“Unless it can be consolidated and translated into a more permanent agreement that includes an easing of Israeli restrictions then we will continue to witness ever more frequent flareups.”