Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

Israeli aircraft strike Gaza sites after balloon launches

The Israeli military said the sites belonged to Hamas

Hamas policemen in Gaza City stand guard. AFP / MAHMUD HAMS
Hamas policemen in Gaza City stand guard. AFP / MAHMUD HAMS

Israeli aircraft struck several sites for Gaza militants late on Saturday in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli military said the sites belonged to Hamas, the Islamic group ruling the territory, and included weapons manufacturing and intelligence-gathering facilities.

There were no reports of injuries from the airstrikes in southern Gaza Strip.

Blaming Hamas, the military said it considers “any kind of terror activity with great severity and will continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm its civilians.”

Palestinian groups resumed launching flammable balloons on Israel recently and Hamas said it’s encouraging the shootings, charging Israel of not honoring an unofficial truce meant to improve the economy of the narrow enclave.

In trying to bolster the Egyptian and UN-mediated truce, Hamas halted the regular weekly protests along Gaza-Israel fence last month.

Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official said that the balloons were a signal to Israel to accelerate the informal “understandings” meant to ease the crippling blockade on Gaza.

The official, Khalil Al Hayya, said the balloons are being launched by disgruntled individuals, not Hamas. But he said his group was “satisfied” with the launches and is ready to send more “if the occupation doesn’t pick up the message.”

Mr Al Hayya said Hamas expects Israel to allow in more medical supplies, unlimited trade between Gaza and the world, help create more jobs and extend Qatari payments for electricity and poor families.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade when Hamas, viewed as a terrorist organisation by the US and most of the West, rose to power in a violent takeover in 2007.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since then, and Israel holds the Islamist movement responsible for all rocket fire coming from the territory, although it has targeted other militant groups there.

On Tuesday, Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinians who crossed into Israel from Gaza and hurled an explosive device at soldiers, according to the army.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel, which maintains a crippling blockade on the impoverished territory.

Updated: January 26, 2020 04:26 PM

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