Israel shells Hamas post after explosion of balloon-borne bomb from Gaza

Army says tank shelling was in response to ‘exceptional’ rioting along border with Palestinian enclave, launching of incendiary devices

File: An Israeli tank takes a position at the Gaza Strip border, October 27, 2018.  (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
File: An Israeli tank takes a position at the Gaza Strip border, October 27, 2018. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

An Israeli tank struck a Hamas military post in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, hours after an airborne explosive device apparently launched from the Palestinian enclave exploded in Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said the tank strike was in response to “exceptional” violent rioting by Palestinians along the border fence, as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and explosive devices toward Israel throughout the day.

Israel as a policy holds Hamas responsible for all violence coming from Gaza, which the Islamist terror group seized from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Earlier, an explosive device carried by balloons exploded in southern Israel.

A photo released by the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council showed the remains of a rubber tube that had contained the explosive material. The improvised bomb is believed to have detached from the balloons and exploded upon hitting the ground.

A police sapper was called to the scene and disposed of the device.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The launch of incendiary and explosive devices into Israel tied to kites and helium-filled balloons became a common tactic in violent protests along the Gaza border over the past year. Such attacks decreased in frequency since an unofficial truce came into effect in November, but have seen an uptick in recent weeks.

So far, no Israelis have been injured by the recent balloon attacks, though damage was caused to a home in the Eshkol region in February. Over the summer of 2018 balloon attacks caused fires in Israel that burned thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves, as well as causing the deaths of livestock and other animals.

The border clashes are part of the March of Return protests, which call for the right of the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Independence War to return to their homes and for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave. The protests have taken place weekly along the border since last March and have periodically escalated into major flare-ups between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, is planning a major march on Saturday, March 30 to mark one year since the start of the protests, amid Israeli concerns over potential major violence.

Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating the riots as a cover to carry out attacks along the border which have included shootings, grenades and improvised explosives, Molotov cocktails, and rock-throwing.

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