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Israel strikes Gaza following violent riots, incendiary balloons

Israel Air Force jets struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in retaliation to the launch of incendiary balloons that caused fires and violent demonstrations along the border fence at the weekend.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that a Hamas military compound used for training and weapon production and a shaft for a terror tunnel near Jabalya were struck.

“The IDF will continue to respond forcefully against Hamas’s terror attempts,” the army said in a statement following the strikes.

The Palestinian Wafa News Agency said that one site at Shuhada Street south of Gaza City was hit by four missiles and another near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip was also hit. There were no injuries.

On the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said before boarding his flight home from Washington that he holds Hamas responsible for what happens in Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, meanwhile, warned that “the Zionist occupation bears all the repercussions and consequences of tightening the siege on Gaza and the escalation of the humanitarian crisis among its residents,” and that “these extremist policies will lead to an atmosphere of escalation and explosion.”

Earlier in the evening, hundreds of rioters gathered at the border fence, burning tires and throwing explosive devices.

Palestinians protest at night time near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 28, 2021. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90)

IDF forces who had been deployed to the area responded with riot control munitions and Ruger riot-control rifles, according to the IDF Spokesperson Unit. The troops were reinforced by special forces and tank units that had been deployed to the Gaza Division earlier in the week.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 11 Palestinians, including three who were hit by live fire, were wounded Saturday night during the violent demonstrations. They were evacuated to Shifa Medical Center in Gaza.

The “Night Harassment Units” said on Sunday afternoon that they would be renewing night protests in response to Israel’s delay in easing the 14-year-long blockade on the coastal enclave.

“The blockade has turned life in the Gaza Strip into an unlivable hell,” Palestinian factions said in a statement. “The relief that Israel said it would give to Palestinians, like the entry of some goods and providing permits to merchants to leave the Strip, do not answer the minimum requirements. Therefore, our demand from the mediators is to fully remove the blockade.”

Earlier in the day, two fires were ignited in the Eshkol Regional Council close to the Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons were launched from Gaza. Many have been sent into Israel over the past several days, starting 10 fires on Tuesday after the IDF struck targets on Monday night.

The violence came days after Israel announced that it would be easing more restrictions placed on the enclave following the 11-day fighting in May, including expanding the entry of goods and equipment for international civilian projects.

Israel has also allowed the import of new vehicles into the Strip and the resumption of the gold trade with the West Bank. It has increased the number of Gazan merchants allowed to pass through Erez Crossing.

Also on Saturday, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry announced that a 13-year-old boy who was critically injured during violent clashes last week succumbed to his wounds.

Identified as Omar abu-Nil from al-Tuffah neighborhood in Gaza City, he had been shot by the IDF during violent protests that saw hundreds of Palestinians approach the fence.

Another Palestinian, identified as 32-year-old Hamas militant Osama Dueij, was also killed by the Israeli military during the clashes.

One Israeli border police officer, Barel Hadaria Shmueli was critically injured during the protests after he was shot in the head by a Hamas terrorist. He remains in critical condition at Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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