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PoliticsMiddle East

Israel strikes targets in Gaza

June 16, 2021

The Israeli military said it was responding to "incendiary balloons" launched into southern Israel from Gaza. It is the first flare-up since a ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas after heavy fighting in May.

New airstikes in Gaza City
Explosions light up the night sky in Gaza City due to the airstrikesImage: Mahmud Hams/AFP

Israeli airstrikes targeted a training camp in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning, Hamas-affiliated Palestinian media reported.

No casualties have been reported so far. It is the first flare-up in violence since Israeli forces and Hamas militants agreed to a ceasefire on May 21 that ended 11 days of heavy fighting. 

What did Israel say about the strikes?

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the airstrikes in a statement, saying they targeted "Hamas military compounds" in response to incendiary balloons being flown into Israel from Gaza.

Israeli firefighters deal with blazes caused by incendiary balloons
Israeli firefighters have been dispatched to deal with the blazes that were caused by the balloonsImage: Tsafrir Abayov/AP/picture alliance

The military said the balloons caused 20 blazes in southern Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee tweeted a video of the airstrikes and said "facilities and meeting sites for terror operatives" in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis were targeted. 

The IDF said that it was "prepared for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities, in the face of continuing terror activities from the Gaza Strip."   

The strikes on Gaza are the first military actions toward Hamas from the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Bennett has said in the past that the military should respond more forcefully to incendiary balloons from Gaza.

Jerusalem march further escalates tensions 

The strikes come as ultranationalist right-wing Jewish demonstrators waved flags and marched in Arab-majority east Jerusalem on Tuesday, angering Palestinians. 

The so-called March of the Flags marks the anniversary of the city's "reunification" after Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967.

Several young marchers shouted anti-Arab chants during the event, drawing condemnation from the Israeli government. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said those yelling racist slogans "are a disgrace to the Israeli people."

"The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable," Lapid tweeted.

wd/wmr (Reuters, AFP)