Great Britain

Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza in retaliation for balloons that started fires

Israel said its military aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in Gaza in response to the launching of incendiary ballons from the territory that caused fires in fields in southern Israel.

In a statement, the military said that it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.”

The attacks, following an Israeli nationalist march in East Jerusalem that angered Palestinians, were the first launched by either side since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of cross-border fighting last month.

The flare-up, a first test for Israel’s new government, followed a march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday by Jewish nationalists that had drawn threats of action by Hamas.

The Israeli military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis.

The strikes, the military said, came in response to the launching of the balloons, which the Israeli fire brigade reported caused 20 blazes in open fields.

Prior to Tuesday’s march, Israel beefed up its deployment of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in anticipation of possible rocket attacks from Gaza.

But as the marchers began to disperse after nightfall in Jerusalem, there was no sign of rocket fire from the enclave.

At the last minute, that march was diverted away from the Damascus Gate and the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, but the move was not enough to dissuade Hamas from firing rockets towards Jerusalem, attacks that set off last month’s round of fighting.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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