Israel strikes Hamas positions in Gaza over fire balloons

A member of Palestinian Hamas security forces stands outside the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on August 11, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Israel strikes Hamas positions in Gaza over fire balloons

  • The army said the strikes were “retaliation” for the launching of multiple balloons from the Hamas-run enclave in recent days
  • Fire services in southern Israel said the balloons caused 60 fires on Tuesday alone but reported no casualties

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Wednesday it carried out overnight strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons were launched across the border from the Palestinian enclave.
The army said the strikes were “retaliation” for the launching of multiple balloons from the Hamas-run enclave in recent days.
Jets, attack helicopters and tanks struck a number of Hamas targets including “underground infrastructure and observation posts,” a statement said.
Fire services in southern Israel said the balloons caused 60 fires on Tuesday alone but reported no casualties.
Explosives tied to balloons and kites first emerged as a weapon in Gaza during intense protests in 2018, when the makeshift devices drifted across the border daily, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities.
Israel has closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip in response to the recent balloon launches.
Hamas denounced the closure as an “aggressive” move that showed Israel’s “insistence on laying siege” to Gaza, and warned it could cause further worsening of the humanitarian situation in the territory.
As the Kerem Shalom crossing closed, the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened Tuesday for the first time since April.
Traffic in both directions was to be permitted for three days, allowing Gazans to leave the enclave for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The Rafah crossing provides Gaza’s sole access to the outside world not controlled by Israel.
The Palestinian territory has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
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.
Palestinian analysts say cross-border fire from Gaza is often used as a bargaining tool to secure Israel’s green light for the entry of Qatari financial aid into the territory.


Iraqi officials: 3 dead, 2 wounded in Baghdad rocket attack

Updated 2 min 57 sec ago

Iraqi officials: 3 dead, 2 wounded in Baghdad rocket attack

  • The rocket targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead
  • The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport

BAGHDAD: Three Iraqi civilians were killed and two severely wounded Monday after a katyusha rocket hit near Baghdad Airport, two Iraqi security officials said. It was the first time in months an attack caused civilian casualties.
The rocket targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead, the two officials said. They requested anonymity in line with regulations. A child was among the dead, the officials said.
The rocket was launched from the Al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad, the officials said.
The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad, within the heavily fortified Green Zone, and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport. Roadside bombs have also frequently targeted convoys carrying equipment destined for US-led coalition forces.
Previous attacks have caused minor damage but rarely deaths or injuries.
The frequency of the rockets have strained Iraq-US relations, prompting the Trump administration last week to threaten to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad if Shiite militia groups believed to be orchestrating them are not reigned in.
The disparate nature of Shiite militias following the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis has complicated Iraqi efforts to clamp down on rogue armed elements.
A government raid on the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, suspected of launching rocket attacks, backfired when those detained were released for want of evidence.