Israeli planes shoot at Gazans launching incendiary balloons into Israel

Source: Israeli planes shoot at Gazans launching incendiary balloons into Israel | The Times of Israel

No immediate reports of Palestinian casualties in two separate raids; 11 Gazans said injured in border clashes in northern Strip

Palestinians load kites and balloons with flammable material in order to fly toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip, on June 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mahmud Hams)

Palestinians load kites and balloons with flammable material in order to fly toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip, on June 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mahmud Hams)

Israeli military aircraft fired at two groups of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, the army said on Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces said its aircraft shot at two separate groups launching balloons from the northern and southern Strip.

There were no immediate report of casualties in Gaza.

According to the Ynet news site, some clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops were also reported near the border in northern Gaza.

At least 11 Gazans were injured in the border demonstrations on Tuesday, according to Palestinian sources.

A protest flotilla was also makings its way toward the maritime border with Israel in the north of the Strip.

For a year, Gaza protesters have launched hundreds of incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have carried improvised explosive devices.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to fling back a tear gas canister thrown by Israeli forces during clashes at the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 8, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

On Monday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip resumed nighttime protests along the border between Israel and the coastal enclave, a week after halting them. Pictures and videos posted on Twitter showed Palestinians in several locations in the border area, setting off small explosions, lighting tires on fire, and pointing lasers at Israeli security forces.

A day earlier, Israel’s high-level security cabinet met to discuss efforts to restore calm and prevent an escalation of violence with the Palestinian enclave ahead of the April 9 elections, Channel 13 news reported.

The meeting came after an escalation of violence was sparked by two rockets shot from Gaza at Tel Aviv last Thursday evening, in what the army now believes to have been an accident. Israel carried out over 100 airstrikes in response overnight Thursday-Friday. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said four people were injured in the IDF attacks.

Israel holds Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza, responsible for any attacks emanating from the coastal enclave. Responding to the air raids, Hamas fired seven rockets at southern Israeli towns, six of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the last landing in an open area.

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flare-ups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations. Protesters have been gathering along the frontier in often-violent protests calling for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to former homes now inside Israel.

Israel says that Hamas has orchestrated the protests as cover for border attacks which have included bombs, grenades, Molotov cocktails, shootings, and breaches of the boundary fence.

Tensions along the volatile border have calmed since the flare-up late last week, though Israel fears they may ratchet up again toward the end of the month, especially as Hamas comes under increasing domestic pressure from rare street protests against the cost of living in the Strip.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Following the Hamas takeover, Israel imposed a blockade of the Strip which it says is aimed at preventing the smuggling of weapons and military materials into Gaza. Goods arrive at Israeli ports and are trucked into the Palestinian territory. The measures include a naval blockade which has restricted the distance Gazan fisherman can sail out to sea.

 

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