IDF fires warning shot at Gazan launching incendiary balloons at Israel
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IDF fires warning shot at Gazan launching incendiary balloons at Israel

Palestinian media reports say a group of men targeted near the border in southern Strip, breaking streak of days without airstrikes

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. This picture taken on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz, from the Israeli side of the border with the northeast of the Gaza Strip, shows balloons carrying an alleged incendiary device launched by Palestinian protesters. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Illustrative. This picture taken on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz, from the Israeli side of the border with the northeast of the Gaza Strip, shows balloons carrying an alleged incendiary device launched by Palestinian protesters. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

An Israeli military drone fired at a group of Palestinians launching airborne arson devices at Israel from the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Palestinian media reported.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that one of its aircraft shot at “a terrorist spotted releasing incendiary balloons” toward Israeli territory.

No Palestinians were injured in the strike, east of Bureij in southern Gaza, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news outlet.

The past week has seen a significant decrease in the number of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip. The tactic, which had seen near-daily use since late March, all but halted entirely from last Thursday to Tuesday.

Israeli firefighters were called to extinguish two blazes in southern Israel on Tuesday that were believed to have been sparked by airborne incendiary devices from the Strip.

Tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip skyrocketed in recent weeks as the two sides attempt to reach a long-term ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.

This picture from October 27, 2018, shows smoke rising after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Saturday saw a large-scale flareup between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group — the second-largest organization in the Strip after Hamas — in which dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel. In response, the IDF bombed some 90 targets in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian mediators have been working intensively to maintain calm, and also hope to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas says the blockade must be lifted first and has vowed to continue the weekly protests, in which more than 160 Palestinians have been killed since March. The terror group has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. A Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier in July.

The protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weaponry.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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