IDF strikes Gaza as Palestinians launch fire balloons into Israel

Terrorists in Gaza sent incendiary balloons into Israel in support of six Palestinian security inmates who had escaped from a prison in northern Israel.

By Associated Press

Israel launched airstrikes on what it said was a terrorist site in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday after Palestinians sent incendiary balloons into Israel in support of six Palestinian security prisoners who had escaped from a prison in the north of the country the day before.

Fighter jets struck a Hamas rocket manufacturing workshop as well as a Hamas military compound in Khan Yunis, a city in southern Gaza, according to the army statement. The IDF said the compound houses a cement factory used for building terror tunnels.

The strikes came in response to incendiary balloons launched by Hamas, which rules Gaza, into Israeli territory, the army said. The devices were a show of support for the prison break, which Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups hailed as a heroic victory.

For Israel, the escape — through a secret tunnel, likely with outside help — marks an embarrassing security breach. The massive manhunt through Israel’s north and Judea and Samaria continued on Tuesday as Jews celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The prisoners appear to have gone into hiding after crawling through a narrow tunnel leading from the floor of their cell to a hole outside the prison walls.

The escape marked an awkward moment for Israel’s new coalition government as it seeks to maintain calm after the deadly 11-day war with Hamas in May and amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause, and many celebrated the escape on social media. Efforts to capture the six will likely draw attention to the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel.

“Every Palestinian prisoner wants freedom, and they have the right to seek out any path to freedom,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told reporters Tuesday, without directly referring to the escape. He reiterated the PA’s longstanding demand that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners.

The six prisoners who escaped have blood on their hands, having committed some of the most heinous terror attacks against Israel’s civilian population.

Israel has erected roadblocks and is conducting patrols in the area. Israel’s Army Radio said 400 prisoners are being moved as a protective measure against any additional escape attempts.

World Israel News contributed to this report.