Airstrike targets car of Gaza balloon and kite launch ‘leader’

Hamas-linked news site reports nobody in vehicle at time of Israeli attack, likely latest warning a day after over 20 blazes destroy fields across border in southern Israel

Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The Israeli military said Sunday its aircraft had targeted a leading Gazan figure launching incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

The strike appeared to be the latest instance of the army attempting to warn off Gazans launching balloons and kites at Israel, which have led to daily blazes in fields in southern Israel and raised fears of balloon-borne IED attacks.

“Our forces launched an airstrike against the vehicle of one the leaders of a cell relating to incendiary and explosive kites and balloons. The attack was carried out in response to the ongoing launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons into Israel,” the army said in a short statement.

The army did not name the person targeted or say if they were hit in the airstrike.

The Palestinian Shehab news agency, linked to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, reported that the airstrike had hit an empty vehicle outside a mosque in Shejaiya, a suburb of Gaza City, early Sunday morning.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

The strike came hours after an Israeli aircraft fired at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israel on Saturday, wounding three people according to Palestinian media.

Palestinian protesters hold balloons before loading them with flammable material to be flown towards Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in the central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Balloons and kites caused fires in at least 20 locations in Israel across the Gaza border on Saturday, destroying hundreds of acres of fields and nature reserves.

In recent days Israeli aircraft have fired several warning shots at groups launching the flaming kites and balloons, apparently a new tactic that the military was looking to adopt in order to counter this threat, which has burned thousands of acres of farmland, forests and nature reserves in the regions around the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.

The strike early Sunday was likely meant as a warning to the figure that Israel knows where they are and may begin carrying out assassinations from the air, including against figures not actively preparing balloons or kites for launching.

The army has signaled in recent days that it may be looking into moving beyond warning shots amid mounting political pressure to stanch the daily attacks from the air.

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