Israel Strikes Gaza After Border Clashes, Incendiary Balloons

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Palestinian protesters burn tires following a demonstration along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City yesterday.
Palestinian protesters burn tires following a demonstration along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City yesterday.Credit: MAHMUD HAMS - AFP

Israel carried out multiple airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza overnight into Sunday, following protests on the border fence and the launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip that started fires in Israel's south.

"Israeli fighter jets have carried out an attack on a Hamas training site which is used both for training and weapon production," an army statement read. "Moreover, a tunnel shaft near Jabalya was attacked."

The army also confirmed the airstrikes were carried out in response to the launching of explosive-laden balloons and the protests on the border fence. 

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Before boarding a return flight to Israel Sunday morning following a trip to Washington this past week to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and other senior U.S. officials, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett placed blame for Saturday night's events in Gaza on Hamas, saying that "We will act in Gaza as per our interests. The address in Gaza was and remains Hamas."  

Earlier on Saturday, at least 11 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli troops in protests on the Gaza border, according to Gazan reports, shortly after arson balloons launched from the Strip caused two brush fires in southern Israel.

Three of the Palestinians had been wounded by live Israeli fire and were evacuated to a hospital in the enclave in moderate condition. The other eight were wounded by sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas. Eyewitnesses on the border said that the Israeli military is employing live fire, tear gas and drones.

The Hamas unit that holds nighttime riots on the border fence said on Saturday afternoon that they would be renewing activities, in protest of Israel's delay in easing the blockade on the Strip.

In a statement from the Palestinian factions in Gaza, they said that "The blockade has turned life in the Gaza Strip into an unlivable hell. The relief that Israel said it would give to Palestinians, like the entry of some goods and providing permits to merchants to leave the Strip do not answer the minimum requirements. Therefore, our demand from the mediators is to fully remove the blockade.

"Representatives of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, announced that its activities against Israel would increase in the coming days, including launching explosive-laden balloons. The announcement added that any injury to Palestinian protesters "would bring a suitable response from the resistance forces and their military wings."

On Thursday, Israel said that it would be easing commercial restrictions on the Gaza Strip and expand entry of goods to the Palestinian enclave following days of heightened tensions.

The announcement came after hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Wednesday near the Israeli border, calling on Israel to ease a crippling blockade days after a similar gathering ended in deadly clashes with the Israeli army.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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