GAZA CITY • Israel’s army yesterday launched new air strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza and closed the fishing zone around the Palestinian enclave in response to rockets and firebombs sent into Israeli territory.
The measures came amid heightened tensions, including clashes on Saturday evening along the Gaza-Israeli border.
Dozens of Palestinian “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it”, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said.
Long simmering Palestinian anger has flared further since Israel and the United Arab Emirates last Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country. Over the past week, Israeli forces have carried out repeated night-time strikes on targets linked to the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
The army said they were in response to makeshift firebombs attached to balloons and kites that were sent into southern Israel, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities.
There were 19 such Palestinian attacks on Saturday alone, Israeli rescue services said. In response, “IDF fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip”, the army said.
Yesterday, the IDF said two more rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza and were intercepted by its defence system. “In response, our Air Force just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza, including a military compound used to store rocket ammunition.”
After rocket and incendiary balloon attacks in the previous week, Israel last Wednesday slashed Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone from 15 nautical miles to eight, a punitive move often used by the Jewish state in response to Gaza unrest.
Following last Saturday’s clashes and rocket fire, Israel’s military decided “to entirely shut down the fishing zone of the Gaza Strip… starting this morning”, it said yesterday.
Israel has also closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip.
The IDF said Hamas “is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli civilians”.