Israel warns of escalation of Gaza following balloon and rocket attacks

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AFP

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Incendiary balloons launched from Gaza have sparked dozens of fires in Israel in recent days


Israeli leaders have warned Hamas that it risks a major escalation in the Gaza Strip by failing to stop cross-border rocket and incendiary balloon attacks.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Palestinian group, which controls Gaza, “would suffer a very severe blow”.

However, a Hamas spokesman promised that he “would not hesitate to enter the battle if the attacks and the siege of Israel continue.”

During the night, militants fired 12 rockets at Israel and Israeli warplanes carried out three rounds of airstrikes.

Since last week, a number of rockets have been launched from Gaza along with hundreds of balloons containing explosives and incendiary devices that have sparked dozens of fires in southern Israel.

Israel responded by bombing what it says are Hamas military targets in Gaza.

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Reuters

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Israel responded to attacks by bombing what it says are militant targets


Israel has also banned fishing boats from sailing and only allows humanitarian goods through Gaza’s only trade crossing.

With no fuel deliveries, Gaza’s only power plant was shut down.

This left the territory’s population of 1.9 million with about four hours of electricity per day, up from eight hours.

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EPA

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Gaza’s only power plant was forced to shut down earlier this week


The number of rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday evening and Friday morning was the highest in 24 hours since the start of the latest wave of violence.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said nine of the 12 projectiles were intercepted.

Israeli media quoted the emergency services as saying that three people were treated for shock after a house in Sderot was damaged by an unexploded rocket, while a woman was injured as she ran towards Security.

The IDF said it responded by hitting a Hamas military compound used for the manufacture of rocket munitions and “underground terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza.

The Hamas-led health ministry in the territory has not reported any casualties.

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AFP

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House in Israeli town of Sderot damaged, apparently by unexploded rocket


After being briefed by Israeli commanders on Friday, Mr. Gantz said: “The IDF is prepared, defending and will continue to protect the southerners, attack those who attack us and inflict very serious damage on them.”

“The people of Gaza,” he added, “are suffering because of Hamas”.

The Palestinian armed factions in Gaza, of which Hamas is a part, jointly took responsibility for the rocket fire, claiming that they had “responded and will respond to any attack against the Palestinian people.”

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Reuters

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Israel’s Iron Dome missile system intercepted rockets near Ashkelon on Sunday


Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group “will not hesitate to wage a battle with the enemy if the escalation continues, if the bombardments and blockade continue”.

“If the Israeli occupation continues its aggression … it must pay the price,” he added.

Egyptian mediators held talks in Gaza and Israel on restoring calm.

Analysts say Hamas is trying to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and to get more financial aid from Qatar.

Israel and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza when Hamas strengthened its power in the territory in 2007 by ousting rivals, a year after winning parliamentary elections. Both countries say the blockade is for self-defense.

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