After Israeli Gaza Strikes and Rocket Sirens, Army Chief Tells Military to Prepare for Renewed Fighting

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Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16, 2021
Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16, 2021Credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

Rocket sirens have sounded in Israeli communities near the Gaza border in the early hours of Friday morning, shortly after the Israeli military confirmed that it has extensively struck targets in Khan Yunis and Gaza City on Thursday night.

The IDF did not identify any rocket launches, saying the sirens were triggered by other unidentified fire. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has informed the military to prepare for renewed fighting with Gaza.

The strikes were in response to explosive-laden balloons launched from the Hamas-controlled enclave throughout the day, and are considered a more serious retaliation than usual for such an incident. The IDF said that the targets were Hamas training sites and rocket launcher, including a Hamas compound in the northern Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported.

"The Israeli strikes on targets of the resistance is a gesture of the new government in an attempt to strengthen the morale of our soldiers after a defeat," Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said, adding that "these foolish strikes will lead to a heavy response in order to protect the Palestinian people from such aggression." 

The IDF strikes on Thursday night were more intensive than previous strikes conducted by the Israeli army in response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza.

Masked Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Jihad movement prepare incendiary balloons east of Gaza City, to launch across the border fence towards Israel, on Tuesday.Credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

The balloons, launched earlier Thursday, ignited eight fires in southern Israel, which were subsequently put out. No casualties were reported.

Air Force fighter jets struck Hamas military compounds in the Gaza Strip on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, also in response to explosive-laden balloons launched during the day. The Israel Defense Forces' spokesperson said the compounds targeted were used by the organization's "terror operatives in Khan Yunis and Gaza City," adding the military is "prepared for all scenarios, including renewal of fighting."

Tuesday's exchange of fire marked the first escalation in violence since a cease-fire ended 11 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas last month, in which 13 people in Israel were killed and at least 248 Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas have said the Egyptian brokered cease-fire is fragile. 

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