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Israel strikes Gaza after incendiary balloons cause fires

The arson attack followed an Israeli nationalist rally in disputed Jerusalem. The incident threatened the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and tested Israel’s new government.
Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16, 2021.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted airstrikes in Gaza early Wednesday morning following incendiary balloons being fired at Israel on Tuesday. It constituted the largest escalation since Israel and Hamas signed a cease-fire last month. 

The IDF said in a tweet that its fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave in response to the balloons. Palestinians in Gaza sometimes send balloons loaded with flammable material into Israel. This latest arson attack resulted in 26 fires in Israeli communities near Gaza, according to The Times of Israel. 

The Hamas-affiliated Safa news outlet reported that the Israeli airstrikes hit near Khan Yunis and Gaza city. The strikes targeted “resistance” locations and there were no injuries, according to the outlet. Hamas and allied Palestinian groups often refer to themselves as the “resistance.” Safa also published a picture of a large explosion purportedly caused by the airstrikes. 

The balloons came after an Israeli nationalist march through Jerusalem on Tuesday. 

Israel battled Hamas and its allies for several days last month before an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect. Hundreds of people died in the fighting, most of whom were Palestinians. The war was also the result of unrest in Jerusalem surrounding the city’s holy sites and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. 

The strikes are the biggest escalation since the cease-fire took effect. Two Palestinian security officers were also killed during a firefight with Israeli forces in the West Bank last week. Israeli forces also shot dead a Palestinian teenager while dispersing a protest in the Palestinian territory that week. 

The airstrikes are also the first to take place since Israel’s new governmental Cabinet took office on Sunday. 

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