Israeli air strikes target Hamas positions in Gaza over incendiary balloons
Fresh Israeli air strikes hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday, Israel’s army said, as a week of hostilities between the Jewish State and the Palestinian enclave raged on. Israel says the strikes, and other measures including halting the territory’s fuel supply, are in retaliation for firebombs suspended from balloons that float over the border from Gaza.
The overnight attack on sites used by Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the enclave, was the fifth such operation this week.
It came just hours after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalise ties in a landmark US-brokered deal.
That agreement has been strongly rejected by the Palestinians, who called it a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said a Hamas aerial defence post, observation posts and underground infrastructures had been hit on Friday, and did not report any casualties.
“Over the last week, explosive and arson balloons have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” it said in a statement.
“In response, a short while ago, IDF fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks struck a number of Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip.”
A similar attack the previous night caused no reported casualties but left an unexploded missile inside a UN-run school’s compound in a Gaza refugee camp.
Dozens of blazes have been reported this week in southern Israel, as makeshift firebombs attached to bunches of balloons or kites set agricultural fields and scrubland alight.
In response, Israel has closed its cargo crossing with Gaza and also reduced the territory’s permitted coastal fishing zone.
Hamas on Thursday condemned Israel’s attacks on Gaza and its sanctions as “dangerous and aggressive behaviour”, warning of “consequences” the Jewish state will bear.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.
Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.
The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Palestinian analysts say fire from Gaza often aims to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of Qatari financial aid into the strip.
On Monday, Hamas fired several rockets into the sea as a warning “message” to Israel, a source close to the Islamist movement told AFP.