Israel bombs Hamas sites in Gaza with fire balloons, says Israeli army

Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas sites in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave that caused bush fires in southern Israel, its army said early Tuesday.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the airstrikes that targeted what the military said was a weapons production facility and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza.

Since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire halted 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in May, Gaza militants have sporadically sent balloons of incendiary material into Israel, sparking Israeli attacks on Hamas facilities.

The Palestinians say the balloons are aimed at pressuring Israel to ease restrictions in Gaza and allow aid to reach the territory. The balloons launched on Monday set fires in Israeli fields along the Gaza border, the Israel Fire and Rescue Service said.

Cross-border violence has skyrocketed despite an Israeli announcement last week about the resumption of Qatari aid to Gaza, a decision that was seen as reinforcing the fragile truce.

Confronting Gaza protesters burning tires and throwing explosives along the border on Saturday, Israeli troops shot and wounded 41 Palestinians, seriously wounding two, medics said. The Palestinian gunfire seriously wounded an Israeli soldier, the army said.

Days before Saturday’s violence, Gaza militants fired a rocket into Israel that was shot down by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, in the first such attack since the May 21 ceasefire.

More than 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed in the May conflict, during which Gaza militants fired rockets into Israeli cities and Israel carried out airstrikes across the coastal enclave.

Israel is keeping Gaza under a blockade, strictly restricting movement out of the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians. Egypt also maintains restrictions on the enclave. Both cite threats from Hamas over the restrictions.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old was killed overnight in a clash with Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli army said its troops were attacked during an arrest raid near the city of Nablus.

A soldier opened fire on a suspect who was about to throw a large object at the forces from a roof, the army said, and “identified an impact.” The Health Ministry said a 15-year-old Palestinian was killed in the clash.

(REUTERS)

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