Israel strikes and sanctions Gaza after week of incendiary balloons

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GAZA | The Israeli army stepped up the pressure on Hamas on Thursday by stepping up airstrikes and cutting off access to fuel in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to stem a wave of incendiary balloon launches from the Palestinian enclave.

• Read also: Israeli strikes on Gaza after incendiary balloon fire

Over the past week, the IDF has claimed responsibility for a series of nightly strikes against positions of the ruling armed Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in response to incendiary balloon fire some of which is behind it. brush fires in southern Israel which did not however claim any casualties.

In an attempt to dissuade these shootings, the Israeli authorities, who have imposed a blockade on this Palestinian territory for more than a decade, have in recent hours successively reduced from 15 to 8 nautical miles the Mediterranean fishing zone for Gazans, carried out air strikes and halted fuel deliveries to the enclave.

Israel had already closed since Tuesday the post of Kerem Shalom, from which the goods enter Gaza, a tongue of land populated by two million inhabitants, more than half of whom live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank, excluding however fuel deliveries and the delivery of essential humanitarian aid.

But on Thursday morning, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced “to stop the importation of fuel into the Gaza Strip” due to “the continuous sending of incendiary balloons” from the enclave.

During the night, “fighter jets and tanks hit” a “military site used for Hamas naval forces, underground infrastructure and observation posts,” the IDF said.

Missile in a school

These strikes did not injure anybody, but an “missile which did not explode, fired by the Israeli air force”, was found in a school in the refugee camp of Shati, a source told the Gazan security. AFP, specifying that “the teams of deminers were on site”.

A spokesman for the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Adnan Abou Hasna, confirmed that the missile had been discovered in a school administered by this branch of the UN.

After five months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which relatively spared the Gaza Strip, local schools resumed operations last Saturday. “We have closed the school and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation to determine what happened and assess the extent of the damage,” Abu Hasna told AFP.

For its part, the Israeli army is investigating this missile, a military spokeswoman told AFP.

And the Shaar Hanegev regional council, a grouping of Israeli municipalities on the edge of the Gaza Strip, reported at least one incendiary bouquet, an explosive charge tied to helium-injected balloons, which had landed on the Israeli side. Thursday morning.

Qatar money?

Despite a truce last year, favored by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, Hamas and Israel, which have already fought three wars (2008, 2012, 2014) clash sporadically with rocket fire, mortar shells or incendiary balloons from Gaza and retaliatory strikes by the Israeli army.

Palestinian analysts say shootings from Gaza are often aimed at putting pressure on the Jewish state to give the green light for Qatar’s financial aid to enter the enclave, provided for in the truce agreement .

These incendiary balloons are a “message” from Hamas to Israel in an attempt to “improve economic conditions in the enclave, ease the blockade and implement part of the agreements reached by the two camps via Egypt”, Jamal Al-Fadi, professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza, told AFP this week.

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