Israeli warplanes bombed the Gaza Strip for the eighth consecutive night after alleging that Palestinians had fired a rocket into southern Israel.
The latest attacks came as Israel warned Hamas – the group that governs the Strip – it was risking “war” by failing to stop incendiary balloons being launched across the border.
Israeli army continues air-raids
Hamas security sources said Israeli warplanes and drones struck several facilities that belong to the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the movement.
The Israeli army air raids and artillery attacks caused severe damage to security posts and wounded several people, sources said. No deaths were reported.
The projectile, which set off air raid sirens in Israel’s south, was “intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System”, the army said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, Israeli warplanes bombed the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as Palestinians fired rockets and launched fire bombs into southern Israel.
Parts of southern Israel were partially cordoned off by the security forces.
Israeli planes launched raids against Gaza shortly after midnight Thursday and then again later on Friday morning.
Israel said the bombs were in response to seven rockets launched from Gaza, six of which were intercepted by its air defences.
Israel is bombing Gaza but the world does not care.
I wonder if Gaza were to do the same would the world still not care?
Death to Occupation!#GazaUnderAttack
— Afreen Fatima (@AfreenFatima136) August 21, 2020
Witnesses in Gaza said rockets were launched towards the town of Sderot, just across the border.
The rocket that was not intercepted damaged the roof of a house in Sderot, but did not cause any casualties, an AFP photographer said.
Israel has bombed Gaza almost every night since August 6 in retaliation for the launch of balloons fitted with fire bombs, or, less frequently, rocket fire, across the border.
The number of rockets fired from Gaza after midnight and again Friday morning was the largest in a day since the latest round of exchanges began two weeks ago.
Hamas “will not hesitate to fight a battle with the enemy if the escalation continues, if the bombardments and the blockade continue,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.
Israel banned fuel imports into Gaza on August 12 as part of punitive measures over the launch of incendiary balloons from the Strip, banned fishing off Gaza’s coast, and closed the Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing – cutting off deliveries of fuel to the territory’s sole power plant.
Power had been in short supply even before the shutdown, with consumers having access to electricity for only eight hours a day. That will now be just four hours a day using power supplied from the Israeli grid.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned on Wednesday that halting Gaza’s only power plant would create problems in the health sector.
The ICRC said on Facebook the reduction of the daily electricity supply from eight hours to three or four hours increased the burden on hospitals, which already operate precariously in Gaza.
Underlining that the power cut will make it difficult for people to access water, it said environmental problems could also arise.
“If the Israeli occupation continues its aggression… it must pay the price,” he added.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Friday warned the army would “attack our attackers and deal them a very heavy blow”.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 19, 2020
“Gaza residents suffer at the hands of Hamas,” he said in a statement following a situation assessment with the chief of the army, vowing to continue protecting Israel’s residents.
Israel has also tightened its 13-year blockade of Gaza’s two million inhabitants.
It has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of Gaza’s sole power plant for want of fuel.
The reprisals came after an Egyptian delegation shuttled between the two sides, trying to broker a return to an informal truce.
Egypt has acted to calm repeated flare-ups in recent years to prevent any repetition of the three wars Israel and Hamas have fought since 2008.
The latest ceasefire, which has already been renewed several times, is bolstered by millions of dollars in financial aid from Qatar to Gaza.
The truce provided for permits for Gazans to work in Israel and financing for Gaza development projects, both measures that would provide some economic relief in an impoverished territory where unemployment exceeds 50 percent.
According to a source close to Hamas, the movement wants the extension of an industrial zone in the east of Gaza, and the construction of a new power line.
Hamas also wants the number of work permits issued to Gazans to be doubled to 10,000 once anti-coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the source said.
Egyptian security officials shuttled between the two sides in a bid to end the flare-up, which has seen more than a week of rocket and fire balloon attacks from Gaza and nightly Israeli reprisals.
Sources told AFP the twin issues were at the root of the latest flare-up.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk