Israel Strikes Hamas Targets, Cuts Fuel to Gaza as Tensions Heat Up

Israel hit Hamas targets overnight in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel over the past week, the IDF said

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Smoke rises following an IDF attack in the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020
Smoke rises following an IDF attack in the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020Credit: AFP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Israel announced it would stop all import of fuel into the Gaza Strip on Thursday 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 comes after IDF fighter jets, fighter helicopters and tanks attacked a number of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, an IDF spokesperson said.

A firefighter extinguishes a fire lit by incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, August 11, 2020Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

During the attack, a Hamas naval force compound, underground infrastructure and observation posts were targeted. The attack was also carried out in direct response to the launch of explosive and incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel over the past week, the IDF said.

According to the army, it considers "all terrorist activity against Israeli territory to be very serious and will continue to act as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens." This was accompanied with the usual statement that Israel holds Hamas responsible for all actions coming out of the Gaza Strip. 

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.

This comes after the military announced on Wednesday night that it will 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 from Palestinians in Gaza after a months-long lull. Fuel deliveries had then remained unaffected.

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.

Gazans can currently travel through the Israeli-manned border crossings only on urgent medical grounds, and even those permits have been especially hard to come by lately. 

A girl looks from a car before leaving the Palestinian Rafah border crossing with Egypt, reopened for the first time in months due to coronavirus concerns, southern Gaza Strip, August 12, 2020.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

The balloon launches began around a year and a half ago, when Gazans started holding weekly demonstrations along the border. They had begun tapering off before the coronavirus pandemic hit, stopping almost completely afterward. Few rockets were fired as well.

Yet over the last several days, several balloons have been launched from Gaza, causing explosions and fires in woods and agricultural lands. According to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, around 1,000 dunams (about 250 acres) have been set aflame so far.

So far, the number of the balloon launches has been small compared to what it was at its peak. But there have also been other incidents that show things are heating up in the area.

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