IDF jets strike Gaza targets in response to launch of incendiary devices

Multiple sites targeted in Hamas-run enclave; earlier, explosive device resembling RPG found near Sde Boker

ILLUSTRATIVE- Footage reportedly showing an explosion during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on January 25, 2020. (screen capture: Twitter)
ILLUSTRATIVE- Footage reportedly showing an explosion during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on January 25, 2020. (screen capture: Twitter)

Israeli jets struck a number of targets in the southern Gaza Strip late Saturday night in response to incendiary devices being launched over the border, the Israel Defense Forces said Saturday.

Recent days have seen several instances of balloon bunches carrying incendiary devices and explosive packages which made their way into Israel, the IDF spokesperson’s office said in a statement.

The targets included a weapon-manufacturing depot and a military post operated by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza.

There were no reports of injuries from the airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF said that it would “continue to act as necessary against attempts to harm its citizens.”

“The Hamas terror group is responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip and will bear the consequences for terror attacks against Israeli citizens,” the military said.

Video reportedly showing an airstrike was shared by Hebrew-language media.

On Saturday morning, a bunch of balloons tied to a suspected bomb was found near Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. The airborne device is believed to have come from the Gaza Strip, from which numerous balloons carrying incendiary and explosive packages have been launched in recent days.

Images of the suspected explosive shared on social media showed a device similar in appearance to a rocket-propelled grenade.

The balloon was discovered by security staff at the Midreshet Ben-Gurion educational center. Police sappers were called to the scene and neutralized the device.

Sde Boker is located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Strip.

A bunch of balloons attached to an incendiary device is prepared to be flown into Israel, near the Israel-Gaza border east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, January 22, 2020. (Ail Ahmed/Flash90)

A second batch of balloons connected to an incendiary device was later discovered in the Ramat Negev Regional Council. It was neutralized by sappers as well.

Terror groups in Gaza have continued to launch incendiary devices attached to balloons into Israel in recent days, undeterred by Israel’s threats to respond forcefully to such incidents.

On Thursday, five suspicious balloons were floated into Israel, including a soccer ball attached to an explosive device that landed in an open area of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

Soldiers from the IDF’s Engineering Corps were called to the scene and defused the device. No was injured by the explosives-laden ball, which appeared to be another attempt to target children. Many of the attacks have been launched via brightly colored balloons and local children have been warned not to approach them.

On Friday another suspicious object apparently flown from Gaza with balloons was found in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Police officers were dispatched to a field where the device landed.

On Thursday evening, a rocket warning siren sounded in a community near the Gaza border. The army said it was triggered by an unexplained explosion inside Gaza, and not a rocket launch.

The siren raised tensions in the south amid threats from Gaza’s Hamas rulers to escalate violence in order to pressure Israel during informal truce talks now underway via Egyptian mediation.

Israeli television this week reported that Egypt is involved in “intense efforts” to get Hamas to end the arson balloon attacks on Israel from Gaza amid fears of a return to violence.

There was no official confirmation of the report from Egypt or Hamas.

A senior Hamas official said Tuesday that the recent spate of balloons was a signal to Israel to accelerate unofficial “understandings” meant to ease the blockade on the territory ruled by the terror group.

Speaking to journalists, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said the balloons had been launched by disgruntled individuals, not Hamas. But he said his group was “satisfied” with the launches and is ready to send more “if the occupation doesn’t pick up the message.”

The UN’s Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, called the renewed balloon launches “concerning and regrettable” in a briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday. “These actions are a risk to the civilian population,” he said.

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