IDF strikes Hamas post in Gaza over fire balloon launches
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IDF strikes Hamas post in Gaza over fire balloon launches

Army says position was used to fly incendiary airborne devices toward Israel; 8 blazes sparked in south throughout Wednesday

Illustrative: Palestinians inspect a military observation post that was hit by an Israeli tank shell east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 20, 2018 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Illustrative: Palestinians inspect a military observation post that was hit by an Israeli tank shell east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 20, 2018 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Military aircraft struck a Hamas position in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the army said, after incendiary balloons were launched toward Israel from the post.

There were no reports of injuries.

The strike came as flaming balloons launched from Gaza sparked eight fires near towns in southern Israel throughout the day, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services said.

Earlier Wednesday, a supply of Qatari-purchased fuel entered the Gaza Strip for the first time in a week, officials said, following a comparatively calm week in the restive coastal enclave.

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s liaison unit to the Palestinians confirmed reports from Gaza that a shipment of fuel had entered the Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in the morning.

However, the liaison unit, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, would not specify the amount of fuel that entered the coastal enclave.

On Tuesday evening, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office announced the fuel would be allowed into the Strip. It had been kept out for a week, following a flareup between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group that was sparked by a rocket fired from the enclave that struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

The defense minister had also ordered the Erez pedestrian crossing and Kerem Shalom goods crossing closed last Wednesday, after the rocket seriously damaged the Beersheba home and another landed in the sea off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.

Israel reopened the Gaza crossings on Sunday, allowing people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave.

Also Wednesday, Hamas’s political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, received a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials in Gaza, the second meeting within a week between the two sides as Cairo continues its efforts to broker a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the terrorist group.

The delegation was headed by Ahmad Abdelkhaliq, the official in charge of the Palestinian file in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services, the Ynet news site reported.

A tanker delivers fuel to the Nuseirat power plant in the Gaza Strip on October 24, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The past week saw a significant decrease in the amount of violence along the Gaza security fence compared to previous weeks, both in terms of the number of people participating in border riots and the intensity of the clashes.

Israeli defense officials described the demonstrations as some of the quietest days since the wave of protests dubbed the “March of Return” began.

Israeli officials believe Hamas has changed its policies regarding the clashes, and was working toward curbing violence at the rallies, which have become a near-daily occurrence, Hadashot TV news reported Friday.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots that have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Some 157 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border earlier this year.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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