Israel strikes Hamas cell launching arson kites during Gaza ceasefire
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Israel strikes Hamas cell launching arson kites during Gaza ceasefire

Palestinians say one injured by drone strike in Beit Hanoun area; Netanyahu and Liberman vow zero tolerance to ongoing, cross-border arson attacks

Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Illustrative: Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The IDF on Sunday said it fired at a group of Palestinians flying incendiary balloons into southern Israel from the northern Gaza Strip.

Reports in Palestinian media said one person was injured by the Israeli drone strike in the Beit Hanoun area.

In a statement, the army said the Palestinians were members of the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Strip.

The strike came hours after a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect, following the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.

Over the weekend, Palestinian terrorists fired some 200 rockets and missiles at Israeli communities near the Gaza border. In response, the IDF struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated that Israel would not tolerate the continued kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned thousands of dunams of forests and agricultural land adjacent to the Gaza border in recent months, including fresh fires started on Sunday.

He said Hamas was hit “substantially and hard” in the overnight Israeli strikes.

“Our policy is clear: Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did yesterday,” he said. “I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later.”

An illustrative photo of a firefighter extinguishing a fire in a field near the Gaza Strip that was sparked by a flaming object flown from the Palestinian enclave, on June 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu denied reports that said the ceasefire brokered by Egypt did not include the cessation of the arson attacks.

“This is incorrect. We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately,” he added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also warned Hamas they would “pay a heavy price” if it did not cease hostilities.

“It’s important to emphasize that we have no intention of tolerating this — not rockets, not kites, not drones — nothing,” he said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “I hope that Hamas has drawn conclusions, and if they haven’t, they will need to pay a heavy price.”

Over the last few months, Palestinians in Gaza have flown thousands of kites and balloons attached to incendiary devices that have set off hundreds of fires in farm lands and nature reserves along the border with Gaza, destroying tens of thousands of dunams.

Domestic pressure on the military to halt the burning flying objects has intensified, leading to Israel carrying out warning airstrikes and increasing the possibility that violence could escalate.

On Sunday, reports in Hebrew-language media said a number of incendiary kites flown over the border had sparked at least two fires.

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