Army Strikes Hamas Targets After Gaza Incendiary Balloons Scorch Southern Israel

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A firefighter trying to put out a fire caused by an incendiary balloon sent from Gaza into Israel, August 13, 2020.
A firefighter trying to put out a fire caused by an incendiary balloon sent from Gaza into Israel, August 13, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Israeli army said in the early hours of Friday it struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to explosive-laden balloons that have been continuously launched from Gaza over the past week.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks struck a Hamas post housing an aerial defense system,  underground infrastructure and an observation post belonging to the militant organization in the coastal enclave.  

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"The terrorist Hamas organization is responsible for everything that emanates from the Gaza Strip, and it will be held accountable for the terrorist activities carried out against Israel's citizens," the IDF statement read.  

Israel's firefighting services said that 21 fires caused by incendiary balloons broke out on Wednesday in the country's south, and 24 fires were sparked the previous day. Fires caused by balloon bombs have broken out every day over the past eight days.

On Thursday, Israel announced it would stop all import of fuel into Gaza following a week of escalating confrontations between Israel and Gaza-based groups. 

The decision was taken by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, following consultations with security officials, "in light of the continued spate of incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into the territory of the State of Israel, and the undermining of security and stability," the IDF said.

This came after the military struck Hamas positions on Wednesday as well.

During the attack, a Hamas naval force compound, underground infrastructure and observation posts were targeted.

The restriction of fuel deliveries was a regular move by Israel's defense establishment during the 2018 and 2019 border clashes on the sidelines of the Great March of Return protests. Critics say that, given the dire economic situation of the coastal enclave, it amounts to collective punishment.

Also on Wednesday, Israel said it would limit Gaza's fishing zone, reducing it by almost half from 15 to 8 nautical miles, in light of the incendiary balloons.

On Monday, Israel announced that it would shut the Kerem Shalom border crossing following days of incendiary balloon launches after a months-long lull. 

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt reopened on Tuesday, for three days, on humanitarian grounds. Pictures showed Palestinians queuing for the necessary permits, ending months of isolation since the crossing was closed in mid-March to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

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