The Israeli Air Force launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday after militants in the Palestinian territory sent incendiary balloons to southern Israel, security sources and witnesses said.
The airstrikes and balloons marked the first major flare-up between Israel and Gaza since a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of heavy fighting that killed 260 Palestinians, Gaza authorities and 13 people in Israel said. the police and the army there.
According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli Air Force targeted at least one location east of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younes.
An AFP photojournalist in Khan Younes saw the explosions.
The Israeli army said that in response to the “arson balloons”, its “fighter jets hit military buildings belonging to the Hamas terror organization”.
It added that “facilities and meeting places for terrorist agents” in Khan Younes were targeted.
About 1,000 apartments, offices and shops were destroyed in the latest round of fighting in May in Gaza, an impoverished two million enclave controlled by the Hamas Islamist group.
Wednesday’s attacks were Israel’s first attacks on Gaza since a new coalition government took over on Sunday night and ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.
The incendiary balloons, which local firefighters said started about 20 fires in southern Israel, were dispatched on Tuesday as more than 1,000 ultra-nationalist protesters carried Israeli flags into Jerusalem’s Old City.
The US and UN had called for restraint before the march, authorized by the government of new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Police used heavy duty, blocking roads and firing stun grenades and foam-headed bullets to clear the Palestinians from the main route.
Doctors said 33 Palestinians were injured and police said two officers were injured and 17 people were arrested.
Hamas had threatened to retaliate over the march, which celebrated the anniversary of Jerusalem’s “reunification” after Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, a move not recognized by most of the international community.