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New Israeli strikes on Gaza over balloon bombs, rockets

By AFP - Aug 17,2020 - Last updated at Aug 17,2020

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli war planes carried out air strikes over Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on Sunday (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Israel launched new air strikes on Sunday against Hamas positions in Gaza and closed the fishing zone around the Palestinian enclave in response to rockets and firebombs sent into Israeli territory.

The measures came after a week of heightened tensions, including clashes on Saturday evening along the Gaza-Israeli border, the FORCES said.

Dozens of Palestinian “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it”, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Long simmering Palestinian anger has flared further since Israel and the UAE on Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country.

Over the past week Israeli forces have carried out repeated night-time strikes on targets linked to the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces say they were carried out in response to makeshift firebombs attached to balloons and kites which have been sent into southern Israel, causing thousands of fires on Israeli farms and communities.

There were 19 such Palestinian attacks on Saturday alone, according to Israeli rescue services.

In response, “IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip”, Israeli forces said, adding that among the targets hit were a Hamas “military compound and underground infrastructure”.

Early Sunday the IDF said two more rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza and intercepted by its Iron Dome defence system.

“In response, our air force just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza, including a military compound used to store rocket ammunition,” it said.


Total fishing ban 


Following rocket and incendiary balloon attacks earlier this week, Israel on Wednesday slashed Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone from 27km to 15km, a punitive move often used by Israel in response to Gaza unrest.

Following Saturday’s clashes and rocket-fire, Israeli forces decided “to entirely shut down the fishing zone of the Gaza Strip, immediately and until further notice, starting this morning [Sunday]”, a military statement said.

Israel has also closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip.

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 2 million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

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