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Israel’s defense forces launched a series of air strikes against the Gaza Strip early this Wednesday (Tuesday night in Brazil) in response to the launch of dozens of incendiary balloons by Hamas supporters towards Israel, hours earlier.
These are the first attacks since the May 21 ceasefire that ended an 11-day conflict that left 255 dead in the Palestinian enclave and 13 in Israel. It is also the first Israeli offensive since the new government, led by Naftali Bennett, took over over the weekend.
Palestinian media videos show explosions in the sky overnight and local reporters say the targets were sites belonging to the military wing of Hamas in the southern and central Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement stating that its fighter planes attacked military targets harboring Hamas agents in the Gaza Strip.
“On the last day, incendiary balloons were launched in the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory. In response, Defense Forces fighter planes recently hit military precincts of the terrorist organization Hamas, which were used as installations and meeting places for terrorist agents “says the Israeli Army communiqué.
In the text, the army blamed Hamas for “all the events that took place” in the enclave, and said it was prepared for “any scenario, including the resumption of hostilities in the face of continued terrorist activities in the Strip”.
According to Israeli authorities, the launch of incendiary balloons during Tuesday caused more than 25 fires in southern Israel, although without leaving people injured or major property damage.
The balloons were launched in protest against the celebration of the “Parade of Flags”, an Israeli nationalist act in Jerusalem.
Palestinian resistance organizations responded to Tuesday afternoon’s celebration of the march through the streets of East Jerusalem, which for nationalists commemorates the city’s 1967 reunification under Israeli sovereignty, while for Palestinians it marks the beginning of the occupation of East Jerusalem, where part of the parade passed.
Before the march, Israeli authorities raised the alert level and tightened security measures, fearing an escalation of tension between protesters.
The “Flag Parade” is normally held every May 10, Jerusalem Day, but this year it had to be postponed when air strike alarms sounded in East Jerusalem on that date, because Hamas started firing missiles at Israel, increasing the escalation of tension between the parts.