Gaza fire balloons prompt Israeli strikes

World | REUTERS 17 Jun 2021

Israeli aircraft struck Hamas sites in Gaza yesterday after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian enclave in the first such attacks since a fragile ceasefire last month.

The violence poses an early test for the government of new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose patchwork coalition came to power on Sunday.

There were no reports of casualties on either side.

The overnight violence follows a march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday by Jewish nationalists that had drawn threats of action by Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza.

Israel's military said the strikes came in response to "terrorist acts emanating from Gaza," namely the launching of incendiary balloons which reportedly caused 20 blazes in communities near the border.

A Hamas spokesman said Palestinians would continue to "defend their rights."

Israel's Army Radio reported that the country had informed Egyptian mediators that direct Hamas involvement in the balloon launch would imperil long-term truce talks.

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