Hamas launched over a dozen of incendiary balloons into Israel on Saturday, after Palestinian factions in the Strip vowed to intensify their activity along the border with Israel in protest of what they say is "Israel's footdragging" on transferring Qatari aid money to impoverished families.
Photos and videos posted online showed masked Hamas-affiliated operatives holding pictures of Gazans killed in recent clashes with Israeli forces while they launched balloons in the direction of Israel.
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There were no immediate reports of any fires in southern Israel. Israel’s new government has compared the balloons, which have sparked a series of wildfires in recent weeks, to rocket fire. It often responds to the launches with nighttime airstrikes on Hamas targets.
Qatar announced last month that about 100,000 Palestinian families in Gaza would receive $100 in cash each month, starting in early September. But media outlets in Gaza said that Israel had removed about 2,000 families from the list of those entitled to receive the stipends, citing security reasons. The move sparked the ire of Gaza's militant factions that vowed to "continue their struggle."
Faction representatives met with the Qatari envoy to the Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, and criticized Israel's interference in compiling the list of beneficiaries. Hamas, however, had agreed last month that Israel and the United States examine the list of needy families to prove that they are indeed poor and not members of the militant organization.
Meanwhile, Hamas members tasked with launching explosive-laden balloons toward Israel announced Saturday that they would increase their activity as part of their protest against Israel.
Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou said on Saturday that the Palestinians in Gaza insist on restoring their full rights as well as breaking the blockade that Israel is imposing on the coastal enclave.
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"The Palestinians won't agree to additional and gradual easing of restrictions, and will employ all the measures at their disposal to lift the blockade," al-Qanou said, adding that "all the means available to Hamas are legitimate in pressuring Israel and lifting the blockade."
Hamas leader in Gaza Yehya Sinwar said Friday that Gaza "will enter a military confrontation if steps meant to pressure Israel fail.
"Gaza is ready for the next military campaign and Mohammed Def has yet to have the final word," Sinwar said in reference to one of the heads of the military wing of Hamas.
Secretary of the Federation of Construction Industries in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Al-Assar, told Hamas' Al-Aqsa radio that building materials that have been transferred into the Strip in recent days are useless as long as Israel is barring sufficient shipments of metal from entering Gaza.
He added that the "construction materials that have so far entered the Strip are only used in projects run by the United Nations," and are insufficient to reconstruct the enclave.