Fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza over balloon bombs and rockets

Smoke and flames seen after Israeli army war planes carried out airstrikes over Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, on Aug 16, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

GAZA CITY, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (AFP) - The Israeli army said on Sunday (Aug 16) that it carried out fresh air strikes against Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks and firebombs sent into Israeli territory attached to balloons.

The strikes come after clashes broke out on Saturday evening along the Gaza-Israeli border, the army said.

Dozens of Palestinian "rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it", the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Over the past week, Israeli forces have carried out repeated night-time strikes on targets linked to the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

The army says they are in response to the use of makeshift firebombs, attached to balloons and kites, which have been sent into parts of southern Israel, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities.

There were 19 such Palestinian attacks on Saturday alone, according to Israeli rescue services.

In response, "IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip", the army said in its statement, adding that among the targets hit were "a military compound and underground infrastructure" belonging to Hamas.

Early on Sunday, the IDF also said that two rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza and intercepted by its Iron Dome defence system.

"In response, our Air Force just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza, including a military compound used to store rocket ammunition," it said.

Israel has closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip and reduced the territory's permitted Mediterranean coastal fishing zone in response to the recent balloon launches.

Despite a truce last year backed by the United Nations, 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.

Hamas "is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli civilians", the IDF said in its statement on Saturday.

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