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IDF strikes Hamas positions in Gaza in response to arson balloons

FILE: Smoke rises from an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Israeli aircraft struck several militant sites across the Gaza Strip early Saturday shortly after militants fired rockets into southern Israel, the I
(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) on Sunday confirmed that combat helicopters struck two Hamas positions in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the enclave.

"Earlier today, an explosive device attached to multiple balloons was launched on a model airplane from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. In response, IDF attack helicopters targeted two Hamas military posts in the Gaza Strip," a statement from IDF said following the attack.

"The IDF will continue to operate in order to protect Israeli civilians from acts of terror emanating from the Gaza Strip. The Hamas terror organization is accountable for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and from it and will bear the consequences for its actions," the statement concluded.

A Hamas security source said one strike occurred east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip and hit an observation point for Hamas's armed wing, while the second was east of Gaza City.

The security source said no injuries had been reported.

An explosive device, presumably attached to the model aircraft, detonated on Sunday while Israeli police investigated the suspicious object. The explosion did not cause any injuries or casualties, according to a statement from the police. 

Police urged members of the public to exercise extreme caution regarding the discovery of suspicious kites and balloons, which they warned could be rigged with explosive or flammable materials, and emphasized the need to explain the dangers of approaching such objects to children especially.

Eshkol Regional Council

The launching of airborne devices such as kites and balloons affixed with flammable liquids or explosives has become a new phenomenon used by Gaza protesters beginning during the initial months of the so-called 'Great March of Return’ protests that have been ongoing weekly since March 30.

In November 2018, an unexploded incendiary balloon was located in an Israeli kindergarten yard near the Gaza border.

The devices have burned acres of fields adjacent to the border, costing Israel millions of dollars in damages and, in many cases, costing residents of the region their livelihoods.

In response, Israel has been hardened its response to the flaming devices, which authorities say have set ablaze more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of Israeli territory. This is not the first incident that has seen the balloons target kindergartens or playgrounds used by children.

Since the protests began on March 30, at least 239 Palestinians, including 50 members of Hamas, mostly by Israeli fire during border clashes but also by air and tank strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

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