After rocket fire, Israel renews Gaza airstrikes, closes enclave’s fishing zone

Army says 2 projectiles intercepted by Iron Dome; reports say rocket fell in Sderot, damaging home

By TOI STAFFToday, 3:54 am  1Gazans protest at the border with Israel, August 15, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Israeli jets carried out a second wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip within hours early Sunday morning, after rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said.

In response to the rocket fire and general rise in violence around Gaza, Israel has also decided to fully close off the enclave’s fishing zone until further notice, reports said Sunday morning. The decision was effective immediately.

The overnight raids targeted Hamas sites in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said. The strikes hit a rocket storage facility belonging to the terror group, it said.

“The IDF views with severity any terror activity against Israel and will continue to operate as needed against attempts to harm the citizens of the State of Israel or its sovereignty. The terror group Hamas is responsible for all [attacks] perpetrated from and in Gaza, and it will bear the consequences of terror attacks against Israelis,” the military said.

The renewed airstrikes came hours after two rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the army. Another rocket slammed into a yard of a home in the southern city of Sderot, damaging the residence.

The rockets triggered sirens in Sderot around 1 a.m., sending thousands rushing for shelter. A 58-year-old man was lightly hurt by glass, and several people were treated for shock or for minor injuries sustained while running to shelters, medics said.

Israel’s earlier round of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Saturday came in retaliation for the continued launches of balloon-borne incendiary devices from the Palestinian enclave and the renewal of nighttime clashes along the border fence.

The IDF said that warplanes targeted “a military installation and underground infrastructure of the Hamas terrorist group,” adding that it holds the terror organization responsible for any violence from the Strip.

A Hamas-linked news site said some 800 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops on the border as part of “night confusion units,” which had previously held violent demonstrations along the security fence but hadn’t been active in recent months.

Some of the Palestinians threw explosive devices at Israeli soldiers, Hebrew media said.

The Hamas-run health ministry said two people were injured by live bullets, apparently during the border clashes, and were taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for treatment.

The renewal of the late night border clashes came amid growing tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza.

Saturday marked the fifth consecutive evening Israel launched strikes in Gaza, after at least 19 fires were sparked in the south during the day by airborne incendiary objects flown from the Strip.

Earlier, Hamas warned of a “dangerous escalation” after two children were reportedly lightly injured in the Israeli strikes.Illustrative: An IDF soldier stands in front of a fire near Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Makeshift firebombs attached to bunches of balloons or kites ignited over 100 fires in Israel in the past week, setting alight agricultural fields and brush. Officials said most were small fires, but some caused damage.

According to a report Friday in the Haaretz daily, Israel has communicated it won’t allow the transfer of a monthly sum of $30 million from Qatar to Gaza unless the spate of incendiary balloon attacks stops.

The report, which did not cite a source, added that the Qatari envoy himself is “not thrilled” to go to the Strip until the escalation is over.

Palestinian analysts say attacks from Gaza often aim to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of the Qatari financial aid into the Strip.

In response to the attacks, Israel has already closed its cargo crossing with the Strip, with exceptions made for food and humanitarian aid, and also previously reduced the territory’s permitted coastal fishing zone.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, with an uptick since the end of last week.

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