The Israeli army said its fighter jets bombed Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Friday in retaliation for balloon attacks launched from the Palestinian territory, casting further doubt on a recent cease-fire between the two sides.
“In response to the arson balloons launched from Gaza toward Israel today, IDF fighter jets struck a weapons manufacturing site used to research and develop weapons belonging to Hamas tonight,” the Israel Defense Forces tweeted. “The IDF will respond firmly against terror attempts from Gaza,” the army said.
There were no reports of injuries or casualties from the bombing, which came a day after balloons sent from Gazan territory caused four fires along Israel’s southern border.
Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, confirmed the bombing. Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas, described Israel’s retaliatory strikes as a "showy reaction.”
Farming towns along Israel’s southern border region have endured a wave of arson balloons since the cease-fire was reached between Hamas and Israel on May 21, ending 11 days of Israeli airstrikes and militant rocket attacks. More than 250 people were killed during the conflict, the overwhelming majority of them Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
שוב בלוני תבערה בעוטף: בשעה האחרונה פעלו צוותי כבאות והצלה יחד עם צוותי קק"ל ב-4 שריפות במספר מוקדים בתחום מועצה אזורית אשכול. חוקר שריפות מכבאות והצלה לישראל מחוז דרום קבע כי כל השריפות נגרמו מבלוני תבערה.— רדיו דרום (@radiodarom97) July 1, 2021
צילום: משה ברוכי, סייר ביערות קק״ל@anataev pic.twitter.com/wvvb5XcPX5
Hamas leader Hamad al-Ragab told Al-Monitor last month that the incendiary balloons are meant to serve as a warning that the Palestinian militants will renew their hostilities should Israel provoke them or continue economic restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
Last week, Israel rolled back some economic restrictions imposed on Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized the territory in 2007. In recent days, Israel has permitted the entry of Qatar-funded fuel tanks and expanded Gaza’s designated fishing zone, allowances Israeli authorities said are conditional on the security situation remaining calm.