Balloon cluster with incendiary device launched from Gaza; IDF hits Hamas posts

No damage or injuries reported; Israeli military uses riot dispersal methods to keep demonstrators away from border fence

Illustrative: Explosions in the northern Gaza Strip from Israeli airstrikes light up the night sky on January 22, 2019. (Screen capture: Channel 13)
Illustrative: Explosions in the northern Gaza Strip from Israeli airstrikes light up the night sky on January 22, 2019. (Screen capture: Channel 13)

The Israeli army said Saturday evening its aircraft fired at targets in the southern Gaza Strip in response to a cluster of balloons attached to an incendiary device that was launched from the Strip toward Israel.

The arson balloons did not cause any injuries or damage.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces called the targets “Hamas military posts.”

Earlier on Saturday, violent clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers broke out along the border fence. IDF soldiers used riot dispersal methods to keep the demonstrators away from the border fence, the Walla news site reported.

According to the news site, several demonstrators attempted to sabotage the border fence.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

The IDF said it had neutralized suspected explosive devices that were thrown at the fence during violent demonstrations along the Gaza border Friday, where some 8000 Palestinians protested, with some rioting and clashing with Israeli troops.

Some protesters burned tires and threw explosive devices, rocks and grenades at Israeli troops guarding the security fence, the army said.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some instances, live fire, the army said.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 21 Palestinians were wounded during the clashes by Israeli fire.

The riots were part of the March of Return protests, which 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.

A Palestinian throws back a tear gas canister toward Israeli forces during clashes on the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on January 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has accused Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Strip, of orchestrating the clashes and using them as cover to breach the border fence and carry out attacks.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The latest riots came a day after the release of a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s handling of the clashes that alleged there is evidence Israeli soldiers committed crimes again humanity.

The inquiry investigated possible violations from the start of the protests on March 30, 2018, through December 31.

Israeli leaders angrily rejected the findings of the UN probe, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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