Israel launches air strikes on Gaza in response to fire balloons

Israel launches air strikes on Gaza in response to fire balloons
Israel bombed the Gaza Strip on Saturday, with its military claiming it hit Hamas targets after incendiary balloons were launched from the long-besieged enclave.
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Israel's May bombing campaign in Gaza killed 256 Palestinians [SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty-file photo]

Israeli aircraft bombed the Gaza Strip on Saturday, with Israel's military claiming it hit Hamas sites after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian enclave.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the strike that targeted what the military alleged was a rocket-launching site and a compound belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza. Hamas had no immediate comment.

On 21 May, a ceasefire ended Israel's deadly 11-day bombing campaign against the besieged enclave, which saw 256 Palestinians killed, while rocket fire from Hamas and other Gaza militants killed 13 in Israel.

Since then, Palestinians in Gaza have sporadically launched balloons laden with incendiary material across the border, causing fires that have burned fields in Israel.

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Palestinians say the balloons aim to pressure Israel to ease the crushing restrictions against the coastal enclave that were tightened alongside Israel's aggression against Gaza in May.

Almost all areas of life in Gaza are subject to Israeli control and limitations: from the size of the area Palestinian fishermen are able to use for fishing to the mail system.

Balloon launches had mostly ebbed after Israel reduced some restrictions on Gaza, though the damage of Tel Aviv's domination of the Strip was likely already done.

As of 2017, a decade after the blockade of Gaza began56 percent of residents were impoverished. 

On Friday, balloons were again launched from Gaza, causing at least four brush fires in areas near the Israel-Gaza frontier.

The Israeli military asserted that its airstrikes were in "response to continual launches of incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel throughout the day."

The blazes along the Gaza frontier broke out on Friday as Israel separately traded fire over its northern border with Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah, in a third day of cross-border salvoes amid wider regional tensions with Iran.