Israel Strikes Hamas Targets After Incendiary Balloons From Gaza Spark Fires in South

Explosive-laden balloon launches that caused 19 fires come as Egyptian officials arrive in Gaza to quell rising tensions

A field in Nahal Gerar burns as incendiary balloons launched from Gaza incite blazes in southern Israel, August 17, 2020.
A field in Nahal Gerar burns as incendiary balloons launched from Gaza incite blazes in southern Israel, August 17, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israeli fighter jets struck Tuesday overnight several underground Hamas targets in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Strip that caused several fires in the south, said an army statement.

Earlier, 19 fires broke out in southern Israel after incendiary balloons were launched into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip Monday, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services said. Firefighting teams have been working since the morning to control the blazes.

The brush fires, including one outside the yard of a Sderot kindergarten, are being tackled by firefighters, JNF and Nature and Parks Authority teams, the army and volunteers. The fire service said that most of the blazes are small and do not pose any danger.

Egyptian officials arrived in Gaza earlier Monday in an effort to de-escalate the rising tensions on the Gaza-Israel border over the past weeks. The delegation entered the Strip through the Erez border crossing, and according to sources in Gaza will hold talks with senior Hamas officials, as well as with other Palestinian factions in the coastal enclave.

This comes after over 150 fires were ignited by the incendiary balloons launched by Gaza factions in the past fortnight, according to fire and rescue services.

On Sunday night, Israeli tanks struck Hamas observation posts in retaliation for the explosive-laden balloon launches, which have sparked dozens of fires in Israel's south.

Israeli defense officials believe that the uptick in security incidents on the border with the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks are part of an attempt by Hamas to pressure Israel to honor its commitments toward the militant group made as part of understandings reached last year.

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