IDF strikes Gaza as Hamas violence continues

According to Palestinian sources, Hamas has decided to gradually escalate the riots at the border and the number of arson balloon attacks as a pressure tactic against Israel.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israel Air Force (IAF) struck Hamas targets overnight Saturday in retaliation for the latest spate of arson balloons and riots on the Gaza border, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Sunday.

Fighter jets hit a military compound used for both training and weapons production, as well as a terror tunnel shaft near Jabaliya, the IDF said.

“The IDF will continue to respond aggressively to Hamas’ terror attempts.”

About 300 Gazans demonstrated violently Saturday night in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same area where IDF sniper Barel Shmueli was critically wounded last week by a terrorist shooting him in the head at point-blank range. While most kept some 200 meters from the border, several dozen of the rioters approached the fence to try and damage it, burning tires and throwing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the IDF soldiers guarding the border.

The troops responded with riot-dispersal means that included shooting gas grenades and low-velocity, low caliber bullets at the leaders that can wound but rarely kill the target. The Palestinian Health Ministry announced that 11 people had been injured in the clashes, three of them moderately.

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“We hear the explosions very well,” a resident of Kibbutz Nachal Oz told Walla News. “Every few minutes we hear booms. The feeling is quite unpleasant. There’s something going on here all the time, it hasn’t been over for a long time already.”

“We are functioning; the children are less free to move around but we are trying to maintain a routine,” she said.

On Saturday as well, two fires caused by arson balloons broke out in open fields in the Eshkol Region bordering the coastal enclave. The Fire and Rescue Services and a Jewish National Fund team put out the blazes, and there were no injuries.

This follows last week’s shooting of Shmueli and nine near-simultaneous fires set off by the terrorists’ launching of arson balloons that also did damage to brushland near settlements of the Gaza envelope. Then, too, the IDF responded with airstrikes against Hamas military targets.

Hamas threatened weeks ago that it would ratchet up the pressure on Israel with both border riots and arson balloons as the indirect negotiations have faltered between the adversaries for long-term quiet following May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls. Although Israel has agreed to let Qatar return to sending $100 a month to 100,000 poor Gazan families ($10 million) through the UN via pre-loaded cash cards, Hamas is demanding that its civil servants be paid as well.

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The terror organization has also not given any credit to Israel for a series of financial concessions it made in the past week, including the importation of more goods and the issuance of entry permits for a thousand merchants into Israel.

Hamas is completely refusing Israel’s demand to link renewed aid to the return of the bodies of two IDF soldiers and two live, mentally disturbed civilians it has been holding since 2014 and 2015, respectively. Jerusalem also won’t budge until all arson balloon attacks cease, one senior official told Israel Hayom last week.

Hamas also wants Israel to remove its long-held maritime blockade on the Strip, which is a non-starter as far as Israel is concerned. The blockade is considered essential to prevent the smuggling of massive amounts of weapons into Gaza from the sea.

Palestinian sources have reported that the decision has been made that as of this week, there would be a gradual escalation against Israel, even though reportedly neither side is interested in going so far as another serious round of attacks.