The Israeli military announced that it carried out strikes against four sites occupied by Hamas in the Gaza Strip in response to arson balloons and the firing of machine guns at Israel by the Islamist terrorist group.
“All summer, Hamas launched arson balloons from Gaza into Israel. In response to Hamas’ renewed attacks today, we struck a weapons manufacturing site, rocket launch site & tunnel entrances in Gaza,” the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Twitter early on Aug. 24 local time. “We will continue to respond firmly against all terrorist activities from Gaza.”
The IDF said in a separate statement that its fighter jets late Monday struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis. The jets also targeted a terror tunnel in Jabalia, as well as a Hamas underground rocket launch site near civilian homes and a school in the Shejaiya neighborhood.
The incendiary balloons from Hamas were “another example of how Hamas continues to employ terror tactics and target civilians,” the Israeli military said, adding that it would continue to “respond forcefully to any terror attempts emanating from Gaza.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the arson balloons. The balloons had set off several fires in southern Israel, the Israel Foreign Ministry said.
The IDF shortly after its initial announcement released another statement saying it had struck another target—a Hamas terror tunnel entrance in Khan Yunis—in response to Hamas firing machine guns into Israel.
Separately, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed overnight in a clash with Israeli soldiers. The boy was later identified as Imad Hashash.
According to Reuters and The Associated Press, the Israeli military said it was carrying out an arrest raid in the Balata refugee camp near the city of Nablus, when its troops came under fire from nearby rooftops.
The Israeli military said one of its soldiers opened fire at a person who was about to throw a large object on the Israeli troops. It is unclear whether the 15-year-old boy who was killed was the same person about to drop the object.
The latest Israeli strikes in response to arson balloons come after events on Aug. 21, which saw a Hamas-organized protest along the Israeli border. The IDF said that hundreds of rioters approached a security fence and tried to climb it, as well as hurl explosive devices at IDF troops, prompting the IDF to respond with “riot dispersal means, including when necessary live fire.”
Israeli troops shot and wounded 41 Palestinians, critically injuring two, medics said, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man with a pistol opened fire at point-blank range and shot an Israeli Border Police sniper in the head, critically wounding him. The Israeli soldier, identified as Barel Hadaria Shmueli, remained in critical condition on Aug. 23.
Just a week prior, on Aug. 16, Gaza terrorists had launched a rocket toward Israel that was shot down by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, the IDF said.
It marked the first such attack since a ceasefire was mediated by Egypt to end 11 days of Hamas–Israel fighting in May. Since the May ceasefire, Israel has experienced sporadic attacks involving arson balloons, prompting the country to retaliate by striking Hamas facilities.
Israel and Hamas have waged multiple conflicts since 2007, when the terrorist group took control of Gaza.
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks between Israel and Hamas, with the latter hoping that ceasefire talks can loosen an Israeli blockade over Gaza that’s been tightly restricting movement out of the territory.
Egypt also maintains restrictions on the Gaza Strip. Both Israel and Egypt cite threats from Hamas for the restrictions.