Israeli planes strike Gaza targets after balloon bombs hit Israeli towns

No immediate reports of casualties in airstrikes on Hamas post in northern Strip, as Egypt attempts to restore calm

Illustrative. An explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on October 27, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative. An explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on October 27, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night, after balloons with explosives were flown into Israel earlier in the day.

The Israel Defense Forces said its aircraft hit “a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the Strip.

The pro-Hamas al-Risala newspaper said an unmanned Israeli aircraft hit a site that belongs to “the Palestinian resistance” in Gaza.

The strikes came as an Egyptian delegation visited the Strip in a bid to broker a fresh deal to restore calm to the restive border region, which has seen an uptick in violence in recent days.

Earlier on Tuesday, two bombs tied to balloons were flown over the Gaza border and exploded inside communities in southern Israel. There were no injuries or damage. On Monday, three bombs exploded near communities and last week an explosive tied to a balloon damaged a home in the region.

Israel has carried out five rounds of strikes in the last four days in response to the balloons.

In an ongoing effort to calm tensions between Israel and Hamas, a senior Egyptian delegation visited both the Jewish state and the Strip this week.

Illustrative. This picture taken on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz, from the Israeli side of the border with the northeast of the Gaza Strip, shows balloons carrying an alleged incendiary device launched by Palestinian protesters. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas at the end of last year.

In these nightly demonstrations, led by so-called “confusion units,” participants generally set off loud explosives, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

The border riots are part of the March of Return protests, which call for the right of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Independence War to return to their homes and for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave. The protests have taken place weekly along the border since last March and have periodically escalated into major flare-ups between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.

Israel has accused Hamas of orchestrating the clashes and using them as cover to breach the border fence and carry out attacks.

The latest riots came after the release last week of a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s handling of the clashes that alleged there is evidence Israeli soldiers committed crimes again humanity. The inquiry investigated possible violations from the start of the protests on March 30, 2018, through December 31.

Israeli leaders angrily rejected the findings of the UN probe, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased.”

Judah Ari Gross and Agencies contributed to this report.

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