Israel turns the heat on Gaza following balloon attack

Israel has unleashed a flurry of moves against Gaza after a recent escalation in the tensions between Israel and Hamas.

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Israel slapped new punitive measures on Gaza on Wednesday, slashing the permitted coastal fishing zone as airborne fire bombs continued floating into Israel, setting scrubland ablaze.

The Israel defence ministry said in a statement that the zone was cut from 15 nautical miles to eight “immediately and until further notice.”

Israel imposes fishing limits on Gaza

“This is in response to the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into the territory of the State of Israel,” it added.

A statement from the fire services in southern Israel said that fire inspectors concluded that the devices had started a total of 24 brush fires during the day, after 60 blazes reported Tuesday.

Typically the makeshift bombs consist of a large bunch of balloons carrying an improvised incendiary which ignites on impact. Some use kites.

Read more: Gaza goods crossing closed by Israel over balloon attacks

Israel used fighter planes, attack helicopters and tanks overnight against a number of Hamas targets including “underground infrastructure and observation posts,” an army statement said.

It said the strikes were in response to the repeated balloon attacks from across the Gaza border in recent days.

No casualties have been reported on either side so far in the latest round of hostilities.

Israel closes Gaza border amid recent escalations

Israel closed its goods crossing with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday over the incendiary attacks and after Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Monday fired a volley of rockets into the sea.

The rockets were a “message” to Israel to let it know that armed groups in Gaza will not “remain silent” in the face of an Israeli blockade and “aggression”, a source close to Hamas told AFP.

Read more: Israel army plants bombs, killing 4 at Syria border

Explosives tied to balloons and kites first emerged as a weapon in Gaza during intense protests in 2018, when the devices drifted across the border daily, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities.

The Islamist organisation and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

Palestinian analysts say cross-border fire from Gaza is often used as a bargaining tool to secure Israel’s green light for the delivery of Qatari aid cash into the territory.

Israel halts import of fuel into Gaza strip

Israel announced Thursday it was halting the “import of fuel into the Gaza Strip”, the latest punitive measure over a wave of airborne fire bombs from the Palestinian territory.

The defence ministry announcement came hours after Israeli jets and tanks hit targets affiliated with Hamas, the enclave’s Islamist rulers.

No casualties were reported.

The latest round of hostilities has seen firebombs attached to bunches of balloons floating into Israel, setting scrubland ablaze. Sometimes kites are used in the makeshift attacks.

Read more: Iran: 2 spies from Israel, Germany, UK arrested

In response, Israel has closed a goods crossing with Gaza and slashed the territory’s permitted coastal fishing zone.

The fuel sanction was “in light of the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip toward the territory of the State of Israel and of the undermining of security stability”, the defence ministry said.

Israeli fire services in the south of the country reported 60 fires caused by balloons on Tuesday, and 24 on Wednesday, without recording any casualties.

Hamas and Israel: a contentious relationship

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

Read more: Israel: attempted attack by Hezbollah blocked

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Palestinian analysts say fire from Gaza often aims to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of Qatari financial aid into the strip.

GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources

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