IDF fires warning shots at Gaza incendiary balloon cell
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IDF fires warning shots at Gaza incendiary balloon cell

Incident comes hours after dozens of rockets and mortar shells hit southern Israeli communities overnight

A Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials and then flown toward Israel near the Israeli-Gazan border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
A Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials and then flown toward Israel near the Israeli-Gazan border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israeli military on Wednesday said an aircraft fired warning shots at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons toward Israel from the southern Gaza Strip.

There were no reports of injuries.

The Israeli military has carried out multiple warning strikes in recent weeks at groups of Gazans preparing to launch incendiary devices toward Israel. The army has said repeatedly that it will act to prevent the launch of the airborne explosives and Molotov cocktails.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched hundreds of kites and helium balloons bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of land in southern Israel. Three fires were reported in Israeli communities close to the Gaza border on Wednesday.

Around midnight on Tuesday, Israeli jets bombed three Hamas positions in the Strip in response to numerous airborne arson attacks by Gazans earlier in the day.

Minutes later, Palestinians in the Strip launched the first of many rocket and mortar barrages at southern Israel, triggering sirens throughout the area and sending thousands into bomb shelters.

An explosion is seen from the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after an airstrike by Israeli forces in response to dozens of rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups from the coastal enclave on June 20, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Over the course of the next four hours, some 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel, with at least six exploding inside communities, causing damage but no injuries.

On Wednesday morning, Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol region, praised the IDF for carrying out airstrikes in response to the arson attacks.

“Eshkol residents had a sleepless night last night,” Yarkoni said. “We support the IDF for its response to the terror kites, which harm our way of life. And we expect the IDF to continue working to bring back calm to the region, with no more rockets launched at our communities and homes, and no more fires in our fields.”

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