IDF aircraft fires at Gazans as Hamas said to meet on battle plans

Two reported injured after strike on balloon launchers; terror group warns it can inflict ‘intolerable’ damage on Israel, according to Hebrew-language report

A Palestinian man inspects a damaged car after an Israeli airstrike on Beit Lahya, northern gaza strip, on August 5, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)
A Palestinian man inspects a damaged car after an Israeli airstrike on Beit Lahya, northern gaza strip, on August 5, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

The Israeli military fired at a group of Gazans launching flaming balloons into southern Israel on Tuesday, as Hamas reportedly prepared for a possible military confrontation should ceasefire talks fail.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed in a statement that an aircraft fired at the group in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were injured in the strike, which took place near the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported.

Incendiary balloons and flaming kites launched by Gazans have wreaked havoc in the Israeli communities surrounding Gaza since April, sparking fires that have scorched thousands of acres of farmlands and countryside.

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows an Israeli Merkava battle tank patrolling along along the border with the Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The airstrike occurred amid reports that Israel and Hamas could be nearing a truce that would see a halt in the cross-border attacks and the reopening of Gaza’s sole cargo terminal with Israel.

Highlighting skepticism over a long-term ceasefire, Hamas’s political leadership met on Monday with top officials in its military to discuss its preparedness for battle with Israel, according to a report in Israeli news site Ynet.

The meeting came a day after Israeli political and military brass huddled for several hours, but did not release any concrete decisions. Following the meeting, a statement from the cabinet said “the IDF is prepared for any scenario.” It gave no indication if any decision on the truce had been made.

Member of the political bureau of Hamas Husam Badran, center, speaks at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza city on August 3, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian sources told Ynet that the Hamas meeting took place in response to the Israeli statement and that Hamas leaders warned they could inflict casualties that the Israeli public and government would not be able to tolerate.

A senior Hamas source in Gaza said he was unaware of the meeting.

Hamas, a terror group that officially seeks Israel’s destruction, is the de facto ruler of the Strip.

Earlier Monday, the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, reported  that the first stage of the potential truce would see Israel fully reopen the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and increase the fishing zone off the Gaza coast. It added that in return, Hamas official said the Strip’s rulers would commit to halting all attacks against Israel.

Palestinian security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority stand at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on July 9, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The second phase of the deal would include Hamas-Israel talks for a prisoner exchange agreement, and the implementation of long-proposed humanitarian projects in Gaza, the report said.

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