Gazans launch incendiary balloons into Israel after air strikes

Attacks raise tension after a night of Israeli air raids on the seaside territory

Hamas-backed Palestinian activists on Tuesday launched a new wave of incendiary balloons into Israel from the Gaza Strip, further raising tension after a night of Israeli air strikes on the seaside territory.

The enemies have this week engaged in their heaviest cross-border hostilities since an 11-day war in May.

In the occupied West Bank, meanwhile, officials said a Palestinian teen was killed in a clash with the Israeli military.

The May war between Israel and Hamas militants ended with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.

Since then, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in efforts to cement the truce.

Hamas wants Israel to lift a stifling blockade on Gaza, while Israel has demanded the return of two citizens and the remains of two soldiers.

Activists have launched incendiary balloons into southern Israel several times in recent weeks, setting fire to farmland on the other side of the border.

On Saturday, they held a violent protest along the Israeli border fence.

During the demonstration, a militant next to the fence pulled out a pistol and shot an Israeli soldier in the head at point-blank range.

The Israeli remains in critical condition. About two dozen Palestinians were also hit by Israeli fire.

The Israeli military said it was increasing its forces along the Gaza border and conducting extensive exercises.

The army said it would “act aggressively” towards any militant activity along the fence.

Early on Tuesday, Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes on Hamas targets in response to incendiary balloons.

The Israeli military said that Hamas fired machineguns into Israel, leading to another air strike. No casualties were reported on either side.

But by the afternoon, the activists were launching balloons again.

“Our message is clear and explicit: this siege must be broken,” said one of the activists, who called himself Abu Omar. “We will not be intimidated by any threats.”

The violence has complicated the ceasefire efforts by Egypt, which closed its border with Gaza on Monday because of difficulties in negotiations.

It also has threatened to overshadow a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is scheduled to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade over Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The blockade restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza and has crushed the local economy.

Israel has tightened the blockade since the war, holding up deliveries of much-needed rebuilding materials.

Last week, Israel said it had reached an agreement with Qatar to resume monthly aid payments to Gaza’s poorest families.

The payments are to resume in the coming weeks, providing some relief to the impoverished territory.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, Palestinian authorities said a boy, 15, died after being shot in the head during clashes with soldiers in the northern city of Nablus.

The Israeli military said soldiers were carrying out an arrest raid in the Balata refugee camp when they came under attack from nearby rooftops by Palestinians who fired guns and threw large stone blocks.

The military said soldiers opened fire at a person who was about to drop a large rock on them. It was unclear whether the teen, identified as Imad Hashash, was that person.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 8:28 PM