Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza in Response to Explosive-laden Balloons

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A fireball rises following an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, two weeks ago.
A fireball rises following an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, two weeks ago.Credit: SAID KHATIB / AFP

Israel attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning after balloon bombs launched from the enclave had caused multiple fires in the country's south the previous day.

Israeli fighter jets struck a Hamas military base near the village of Jabalia as well as a rocket launch site belonging to the militant organization near the village, the Israeli military said in a statement.

"The attacks were carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces will continue retaliating against terror attempts emanating from the Gaza Strip," the statement added.

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Explosive-laden balloons flown from Gaza on Friday started four fires in southern Israel. 

Three of the fires broke out in Kissufim Forest near the Gaza border, and another raged in Be'eri Forest.

Hamas spokesperson Fauzi Barhum said Saturday that "Gazan youths' determination to launch incendiary balloons [into Israel] is proof that they are surrendering to the Israeli enemy."

Kissufim Forest, today.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Hamas resumed the launch of bomb balloons to exert pressure on Israel and Egypt to advance negotiations on allowing construction materials into the Strip after May's hostilities with Israel, Lebanon's al-Akhbar daily reported Saturday, citing Hamas sources.  

Last week saw fires across Israel's border communities due to incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip. Israel retaliated by striking Hamas targets in the enclave and reducing Gaza's fishing zone. Israel has since dropped the constraint.

Hamas has recently threatened to resume the launching of incendiary balloons after the militant organization failed to reach an agreement with Israel on the transfer of Qatari funds and goods into Gaza.

Israel later announced it would allow goods into the Strip and Hamas has agreed that Israel and the United States will examine the list of families in Gaza who Hamas decided will receive a monthly stipend from Qatar as a condition for transferring the money.

Israel and the U.S. will ensure that the list of 160,000 families does not include Hamas militants or suspected of terrorism.

Since the end of the recent round of hostilities in May, Israel and Hamas – through Qatari and international mediation efforts – have been discussing the resumption of the humanitarian aid to Gaza, including grants to needy families.

The Qataris are proposing funding of $10 million to 100,000 families, though the number of families that signed up for the aid is almost 160,000.

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