Israeli tanks hit Gaza over ‘riots’ and balloon bombs
JERUSALEM, – Israeli tanks pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday in what has become a daily response to Palestinian rockets and airborne firebombs launched into southern Israel and to clashes on the border.
“Tanks targeted a number of military observation posts belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip,” an army statement said in English, referring to the Islamist group that rules the enclave.
The army said that in addition to cross-border attacks with explosives and incendiary devices suspended from balloons, dozens of people had also “instigated riots along the Gaza Strip security fence” on Sunday evening.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the tank fire.
The latest incidents follow a week of heightened tensions, including border clashes, during which Israel has also closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip and Sunday shut down Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone.
Israeli fire services in the border areas reported 28 outdoor fires Sunday, and farmers said that extensive damage was caused to an avocado orchard.
A fires services statement on Sunday evening said that since August 6 its investigators had identified 149 fires in southern Israel caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza.
On Saturday evening Palestinian “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it,” an Israeli army statement said.
That was followed on Sunday by Israeli air strikes on Hamas, including what a military statement called “a military compound used to store rocket ammunition”.
Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.
The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Palestinian anger has flared since Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move many Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country.