Israel Strikes Hamas Targets After Explosive-laden Balloons Launch From Strip

Nearly two dozen fires erupted in Israel's south on Friday, caused by explosives tied to balloons sent from the Gaza Strip

Jack Khoury
Haaretz
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Smoke rises following an IDF attack in the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020
File photo: Smoke rises following an IDF strike in the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Haaretz

The Israel Air Force struck several Hamas targets in Gaza on Friday night after explosive-laden balloons launched from the Strip earlier started nearly two dozen fires in the country's south, the Israeli army Spokesperson's Unit said.

According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli fighter jets struck a Hamas outpost near Beit Lahia in the north of the Strip, as well as a field near Bureij. Some outlets reported that a woman and a child were wounded in one of the attacks.

The strikes targeted a Hamas naval outpost, as well as underground infrastructure and a observation post, said the Israeli army statement.

The strikes come after nearly two dozen fires erupted in the country's south earlier on Friday. They were caused by explosive-laden balloons that were launched from the Strip.

The events late on Friday follow a week of escalating violence between Israel and Gaza-based groups.

A firefighter tackles a blaze that broke out in southern Israel, August 11, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel’s military had already struck Gaza in the early hours of Friday morning. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said they had struck a Hamas post housing an aerial defense system, underground infrastructure and an observation post belonging to the militant organization in the coastal enclave.

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 explosive-laden balloon have broken out every day over the past nine days.

On Thursday, Israel announced it would stop all imports 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.

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 launched from Gaza.

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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