Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza after Hamas sends incendiary balloons

Photo: AP Workers remove the rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. The building was damaged last month during an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.

The Israeli air force launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday after militants in the Palestinian territory sent incendiary balloons into southern Israel, news wires reported. According to Palestinian sources, Israel's air force targeted at least one site east of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younes. The Israeli Defence Force said that in response to the "arson balloons", its "fighter jets struck military compounds belonging to the Hamas terror organisation.

The incendiary balloons, which local firefighters said caused around 20 fires in southern Israel, were sent as more than a thousand ultranationalist demonstrators bearing Israeli flags poured into Jerusalem's flashpoint Old City on Tuesday.

The airstrikes and balloons marked the first major flare-up between Israel and Gaza since a ceasefire on 21 May ended 11 days of heavy fighting that killed 260 Palestinians, according to Gaza authorities, and 13 people in Israel, the police and army there said.

Wednesday's strikes also were Israel's first against Gaza since a new coalition government took over on Sunday night, ousting PM Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

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