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IDF strikes Hamas targets in southern Gaza in response to attacks

Palestinians in Strip launch explosive balloons into Israeli territory, fire at Israeli military observation camera

Masked Palestinians prepare an incendiary device with what appears to be gas canisters and balloons 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)
Masked Palestinians prepare an incendiary device with what appears to be gas canisters and balloons 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)

The Israeli Air Force carried out strikes on the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon in response to attacks earlier in the day, the military said.

“Earlier today, fire was identified from the Gaza Strip toward an observation antenna and explosive balloons were launched into Israeli territory,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

“In response, a short while ago, IDF aircraft and tanks targeted a number of observation means used for intelligence collection by the Hamas terror organization, in the southern Gaza Strip,” it said.

Palestinian media in the Gaza Strip reported that three separate sites were targeted.

On Thursday, a bundle of balloons connected to an explosive device were found in the area of the Ashkelon Coastal Regional Council. There were no injuries.

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

Earlier in the day, Ibrahim al-Shantaf, identified as a member of Hamas’ military wing, died in an accident while working in one of its underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

Thursday’s strikes came less than a day after Israeli aircraft attacked several sites in the Gaza Strip in response to a mortar shell fired into southern Israel.

The army said that it had hit “Hamas targets including a weapons manufacturing site and underground infrastructure.”

The Wednesday evening mortar attack triggered sirens in the community of Kibbutz Kissufim in the Eshkol region.

An Eshkol spokesperson said an explosion was heard following the sirens and that an impact site was found in an open field outside the community.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The attacks followed US President Donald Trump’s release Tuesday of his plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which drew staunch denunciations from Palestinian leaders, including the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas terror group.

Throughout Wednesday, a number of balloon clusters carrying suspected explosive devices that had been launched from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, continuing a trend of such airborne attacks from the enclave over the past few weeks. Police sappers disarmed and removed the objects.

On Wednesday evening, the military announced it was deploying additional troops to the Gaza border and West Bank amid concerns that Palestinians may respond violently to the peace plan, which was widely seen as being tilted in favor of Israel.

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