Israel bombs Hamas sites in Gaza over fire balloons: military

Palestinians say the balloons aim to pressure Israel to ease restrictions on the besieged territory under Israeli blockade.

Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas sites in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave that caused brush fires in southern Israel, its military said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the air attacks that targeted what, the military said early on Tuesday, was a weapons production facility and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas, the group that rules Gaza.

In a statement, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) confirmed that fighter jets attacked “a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in Khan Younis as well as terror tunnel entrance in Jabalya”.

“A Hamas underground rocket launch site that is located adjacent to civilian homes and a school in Shujaiya, was also struck,” it added, saying “the strikes were in response to Hamas launching incendiary balloons into Israeli territory”.

Since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire halted 11 days of Israel-Hamas fighting in May, groups in Gaza have sporadically sent balloons laden with incendiary material into Israel, drawing Israeli raids on Hamas facilities.

Palestinians say the balloons aim to pressure Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza and permit aid to reach the territory.

Balloons launched Monday set off fires in Israeli fields along the Gaza border, Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said.

Cross-border violence has spiked despite an Israeli announcement last week of a resumption of Qatari aid to Gaza, a move that had been seen as bolstering the fragile truce.

Confronting Gaza protesters burning tyres and throwing explosives along the border on Saturday, Israeli troops shot and wounded 41 Palestinians, critically injuring two, medics said.

Palestinian gunfire seriously wounded an Israeli soldier, the military said.

Days before Saturday’s violence, Gaza fighters launched a rocket towards Israel that was shot down by its Iron Dome anti-missile system in the first such rocket attack since the May 21 ceasefire.

More than 250 Palestinians, many of them civilians and children, and 13 Israelis were killed in the May conflict, during which Israel carried out significant air raids across the coastal enclave, prompting Gaza fighters to fire rockets towards Israeli cities.

Israel keeps Gaza under blockade, tightly restricting movement out of the territory that is home to two million Palestinians.

Egypt also maintains restrictions on the enclave. Both cite threats from Hamas for the restrictions.


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