Hamas: Israel will ‘bear consequences’ after 2 kids said lightly hurt in strikes
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Hamas: Israel will ‘bear consequences’ after 2 kids said lightly hurt in strikes

Terror group says red line crossed in ‘dangerous escalation’; IDF hits sites it says linked to Gaza rulers after balloon-borne incendiary devices spark over 100 fires in past week

A youth moves debris on a rooftop following an Israeli air strike east of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on August 15, 2020. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A youth moves debris on a rooftop following an Israeli air strike east of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on August 15, 2020. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Hamas warned Israel on Saturday that a red line was crossed in a “dangerous escalation” after two children were reportedly lightly injured in airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in response to a recent spate of attacks that sent balloon-borne arson and explosive devices into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that combat helicopters and tanks hit a number of terror targets belonging to Hamas, including sites used by its naval forces, underground infrastructure, and observation posts.

But Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the terror group said the IDF had also hit “innocent civilians,” and that the strikes constituted a “red line and a dangerous escalation that Israel will bear the consequences for.”

The Hamas health ministry reported a 3-year-old girl was lightly injured in an airstrike around al-Bureij. Local media reports said she was hit with shrapnel in her face.

The Hamas-linked al-Resalah outlet additionally reported a woman and an 11-year-old boy were lightly injured in the same region and taken to hospital for treatment.

Barhoum said the terror groups in Gaza “will not allow the situation to remain as it is,” before adding that they will act to “curb aggression and safeguard the interests of the people.”

The overnight attack on sites said to be used by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the enclave, was the fifth such operation since the start of the week.

An Israeli worker from the Nature and Parks Authority attempts to extinguish a fire caused by a incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip, near Or HaNer Kibbutz, Aug. 12, 2020 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“The attack was carried out in response to balloons with explosives and incendiary balloons [launched] from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory over the past week,” the IDF said.

The IDF added that it holds Hamas responsible for all acts in and emanating from the Strip.

Makeshift firebombs attached to bunches of balloons or kites ignited over 100 fires in Israel in the past week, setting alight agricultural fields and brush. Officials said most were small fires, but some caused damage.

Friday night’s attack came a day after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize ties in a landmark US-brokered deal, ratcheting up tensions in the West Bank and Gaza.

The agreement infuriated the Palestinian leadership, who called it a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Palestinians also held protests against the deal in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Protesters taking part in Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem trampled and then set fire to a poster of UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed to protest the accord.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of PA leadership in response to the agreement, while the PA recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest over the deal.

Abu Dhabi has sought to portray its action as first and foremost benefiting the Palestinians, as it puts off and possibly cancels Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Palestinian protesters burn a banner showing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan near the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, August 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Haaretz daily reported Friday that Israel communicated that it won’t allow the transfer of a monthly sum of $30 million from Qatar to Gaza unless the spate of incendiary balloon attacks stops.

The report, which did not cite a source, added that the Qatari envoy himself is “not thrilled” to go to the Strip until the escalation is over.

Palestinian analysts say attacks from Gaza often aim to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of the Qatari financial aid into the Strip.

In response to the attacks, Israel has already closed its cargo crossing with the Strip, with exceptions made for food and humanitarian aid, and also reduced the territory’s permitted coastal fishing zone.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, with an uptick since the end of last week.

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