Gaza On State Of Alert After Blasts Kill 3 Hamas Police

Increased Hamas presence on main roads of the Palestinian enclave after two bombings target security forces.

The Gaza Strip is on a “state of alert” after explosions killed three policemen in the Palestinian enclave in apparent suicide attacks.

The police officers died in “two explosions targeting police checkpoints” late on Tuesday, the interior ministry in the Hamas-controlled coastal territory said in a statement.

Such attacks on Hamas, which has the most powerful armed apparatus in the enclave, are rare.

An interior ministry spokesman, Eyad al-Bozom, said security forces were making progress in their pursuit of those behind the explosions, but he did not disclose further details.

“The sinful hands that carried out this crime will not escape punishment,” said Bozom.

The first blast destroyed a motorcycle as it passed a police checkpoint, witnesses said. Two police officers were killed and a third Palestinian wounded. It was not immediately clear if the riders were among the casualties.

The second explosion less than an hour later killed one officer and wounded several people at a police checkpoint elsewhere in the city, the interior ministry said.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said Gaza can “absorb” such incidents.

“We are certain things will be controlled and all sides involved in these bombings will be held accountable,” he said in a statement.

Hamas – which took over Gaza in a 2007 civil war with the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – has at times faced internal opposition from more hardline fighters aligned with al-Qaeda or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

Escalating violence

A source familiar with the investigation told AFP news agency a group in Gaza that sympathises with ISIL was suspected.

Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the blasts.

“These events only serve the Israeli occupation, which tried to stab the Palestinian resistance in the back.  What the occupation could not achieve by launching wars on Gaza will not be achieved by such bombings,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Islamic Jihad condemned the attacks saying it stands with Hamas security services. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also blamed Israel for the bombings.

The Israeli military said it was unaware of any action in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military earlier on Tuesday bombed a Hamas military post after fighters in the Strip fired a mortar round across the border but said it hadn’t carried out any air raids at night.

Tuesday’s events were the latest in a string of cross-border incidents that have raised concerns of further escalation before Israel‘s September 17 elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for re-election, with political opponents calling for tougher action against Hamas.

On Monday, Israeli warplanes hit what the military said were “terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip, including the office of a Hamas battalion commander”.

Israel also announced it was slashing by half the fuel it pipes to the Strip’s main power station, meaning a cut to Gaza’s already meagre electricity supply.