Israel responds to incendiary balloons from Gaza

What happened: For a third consecutive day incendiary balloons were released from the Gaza Strip starting several fires on the Israel side of the border.

  • Yesterday there were 13 fires recorded in the Gaza periphery, at least 8 of which were caused by incendiary balloons according to the Fire Service.
  • In response, Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas in Gaza city and Khan Yunis, with no injuries reported.
  • Following the IAF strikes, sirens were heard in communities on the Gaza border for the first time since the fighting concluded last month. However, no incoming rockets were detected. It is thought that machine gun fire emanating from the Gaza Strip set off the alarms.
  • On Wednesday 10 fires were reported along the Gaza border, with at least 4 of them caused by incendiary balloons. However, the IDF chose not to respond on Wednesday night, instead passed on warnings to Hamas though Egyptian mediators.
  • Also on Wednesday, Syria media reported an Israeli tank fired at a military post used by Iranian militias as an observation post in the area of Quneitra.

Context: This is the first security test of the new government. The IDF strikes last night were meant to send a message to Hamas that it is prepared for a resumption of fighting if Hamas doesn’t stop the launching of incendiary balloons.

  • The IDF confirmed: “The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory. The IDF is prepared for every scenario, including the resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist operations from the Gaza Strip.”
  • Similar to the strikes on Tuesday night, the targets selected were empty, allowing Israel to retaliate with moderation.
  • This week Hamas has been firing rockets into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis, which also serves to send a message to Israel.
  • An Israeli security delegation led by National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat is expected to travel to Cairo to discuss a truce arrangement, rehabilitating the Gaza Strip and the release of the Israeli captives and bodies of the MIAs.
  • In recent days Egypt has shown more accommodation towards Hamas, by allowing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to visit Cairo, having been banned for the last year after he visited Iran.
  • Egypt has also opened the Salah a-Din crossing near Rafah into the Gaza Strip for the passage of goods, including concrete, iron and chemicals without any supervision.
  • The strike in Syria, attributed to Israel, was also the first time since Prime Minister Bennett took office. The tank only fired after it had been ascertained that there were no operatives in the vicinity. The goal was to signal to Iran and Hezbollah that Israel will not allow it to entrench itself on the Syrian Golan, as it continues to set up a second front against Israel.

Looking forward: On Sunday Israel’s new Security Cabinet will convene for the first time under Prime Minister Bennett.

  • Also on Sunday IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, will make an official military visit to the US, as a guest of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley. The visit was originally scheduled in April but was postponed due to the rise of tensions in Jerusalem and Gaza.

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