On Monday morning, Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes against Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources.
The Israeli response came on the heels of Hamas continuing to launch incendiary and explosive devices attached to balloons towards Israel. On Sunday, 28 fires resulted from these balloons launched from Gaza at Ashkelon, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Eshkol in southern Israel, according to Israeli security sources.
Israeli warplanes targeted dozens of military sites belonging to Hamas, in response to the launch of the explosive-laden balloons.
Palestinian security sources said that Israeli artillery attacked two Hamas sites in the eastern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, while warplanes struck an agricultural land in Khan Younis. No injuries were reported, but the attack caused considerable material damage in the targeted areas.
“Israeli raids came in response to the continuation of the launch of balloons attached to incendiary or explosive materials into Israeli towns,” the Israeli army stated.
“We are working with determination against any attempt to commit acts against our residents in the towns adjacent to the coastal enclave,” the statement added.
Palestinian sources from Gaza said that the Israelis are using the balloon bombing as an excuse to launch airstrikes against Palestinians. They claim that incendiary balloon bombing were “peaceful tools,” and “non-violent popular means.” However, Israeli EOD personnel has been frequently called out to disarm explosives attached to balloons.
The violence comes amid weeks of tensions. On Saturday, a rocket was launched from the strip and landed in southern Israel, the IDF responded with tank fire that struck Hamas military positions. And early on Friday, Hamas launched 12 rockets at southern Israel; one damaged a home in the border town of Sderot. The Israeli airforce responded with three airstrikes on Hamas targets.
Israel claims that it holds Hamas responsible for the actions emanating from Gaza.
In light of the continuing balloon attacks, Israel has closed Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing on the country’s border with the Gaza Strip. It has also halted fuel supply to Gaza, which has shut down the power stations in Gaza. On Friday, it also ceased agricultural work in fields bordering Gaza while also reducing the enclave’s fishing zone.
Egyptian mediators went to Gaza earlier this week to try to negotiate an informal truce but left without making any progress.
The Gulf nation of Qatar has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Gaza in recent years in an effort to keep Gaza’s economy from collapsing amid the Israeli blockade. Due to the blockade, most of the people of Gaza have been living in abject poverty.
Doha gives about $30 million dollars a month to the Palestinian strip. The money goes to pay for fuel for the Strip’s power plant, to the salaries of the Palestinian Authority’s civil servants, and to provide aid to tens of thousands of families in need. Hamas is demanding that amount increase to $40 million a month.
The Israeli government is hoping that Qatar will play a bigger role in creating a peace plan that will work for both sides. The IDF’s Southern Command head, MG. Herzl “Herzi” Halevi and members of the Mossad, Shin Bet, and National Security Council went to Doha to talk with Hamas leaders in order to prevent further military escalation.