IDF strikes Hamas site in Gaza after arson balloons spark fires in south
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IDF strikes Hamas site in Gaza after arson balloons spark fires in south

Israeli aircraft reportedly target facility controlled by the terror group outside Beit Lahiya in second strike of week

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

Illustrative: A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli airstrike at Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, after Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets toward Israel, June 27, 2020. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Illustrative: A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli airstrike at Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, after Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets toward Israel, June 27, 2020. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip late Thursday night after terrorists in the enclave allegedly launched a number of balloons carrying suspected explosives and incendiary devices into Israel, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the retaliatory strike targeted “underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip.”

The Hamas-linked al-Resalah news site identified the site as the group’s “Palestine base” outside Beit Lahiya.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the territory of the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory throughout the day,” the IDF said in a statement.

Following the strikes, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Gaza-based terror groups against attacking Israel.

“The State of Israel won’t accept any violation of its sovereignty or harm to residents of the south,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “If the terror organizations still don’t understand, whoever tests Israel will be hit hard.”

At least three brush fires were ignited in southern Israel on Thursday by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip, the fire department said, sparking concern over a possible return of the phenomenon.

Another balloon that carried a suspected explosive device was found near the city of Arad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the coastal enclave. It was located by police and detonated in a controlled explosion, police said.

The origin of the balloon was not known.

Throughout the day, several blazes were reported in the Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol Regions, northeast and east of the Gaza Strip, respectively. The fires were quickly brought under control. No injuries were reported as a result of the blazes.

An investigation into the cause of the fires determined that they were sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices, the southern division of Fire and Rescue Services said.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, though there have been relatively few launches of late as the Israeli government and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group have reportedly been negotiating a long-term ceasefire.

The tit-for-tat was the second round of violence in less than a week, marking a slight uptick in tensions on the border, which had seen an extended period of calm.

On Sunday evening, terrorists in the Strip fired a rocket toward southern Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF said.

In response, the IDF targeted several Hamas sites in central and southern Gaza, including a cement factory used in the construction of underground infrastructure and “underground facilities used by the Hamas terror group,” the military said.

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