IDF strikes Gaza Strip after incendiary balloon fires

A number of fires broke out in southern Israel on Tuesday, with at least 20 of them sparked by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.

The IDF struck a number of military sites belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night in response to 20 fires sparked by incendiary balloons earlier in the day.

“The IDF is prepared for all scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist acts from the Gaza Strip,” said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit in a statement.

Hamas responded to the strikes on Tuesday night, calling the strikes “a failed attempt to stop our people’s solidarity and resistance with the Holy City, and to cover up the unprecedented state of confusion for the Zionist establishment in organizing the so-called ‘Flag March.'”

The strikes come after dozens of Palestinians rioted and clashed with the IDF along the Gaza border on Tuesday, as tensions rose surrounding a flag march through the Old City of Jerusalem.

During the clashes, a Palestinian within a small group of instigators was shot in the leg and was taken away from the scene in light condition, according to Palestinian media. Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioters in order to disperse them.

Video from southern Israel on Tuesday afternoon showed large amounts of smoke in the border area due to the riots. The riots continued into the night as the Night Confusion Units in Gaza returned to operation, launching explosives and burning tires. One Palestinian was shot by the IDF during the riots on Tuesday evening.

#صور مواجهات بين شبان وقوات الاحتلال على السياج الفاصل شرق رفح جنوب قطاع غزة، بالتزامن مع "مسيرة الأعلام" للمستوطنين في القدس المحتلة.
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) June 15, 2021

A number of fires broke out in southern Israel on Tuesday, with at least 20 fires sparked by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza. Earlier in the day, Palestinian media published photos of terrorists preparing such balloons to launch towards Israel.

At least one explosive balloon was reported over southern Israel, with residents reporting that they saw and heard the balloon explode in the air, according to Israeli media.

Three Gazans were arrested by the IDF after they crossed the Gaza border fence into Israel, according to Palestinian reports.

As part of security preparations in light of the flag march, the paths of flights to and from Ben-Gurion Airport were diverted to leave and arrive from the North on Tuesday.

Iron Dome anti-missile defense units were also reinforced ahead of the march, amid threats by Hamas in recent days and weeks.

On Tuesday evening, Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situation assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, IDF Intelligence Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heiman, IDF intelligence analysis chief Brig.-Gen. Amit Saar and Defense Ministry Policy and Political-Military Bureau head Zohar Palti.

No further information about the meeting was released in the statement by Gantz’s office.

Despite the lack of rocket fire, Hamas celebrated what it termed a “confirmation” of the deterrence situation after Operation Guardian of the Walls, after Israel changed flight paths and the path of the flag march and intensified the deployment of the Iron Dome due to concerns of rocket fire.

“The courageous stances of the Palestinian resistance, and its decisive decisions that forced the Israeli occupation to change the path of the so-called march of flags away from the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, change the path of civil aviation, and intensify the deployment of the Iron Dome, confirm the achievement of the deterrence equation it imposed in the Battle of Saif al-Quds, and its success in imposing new rules of engagement on the enemy,” said Hamas on Tuesday night.

“The valiant resistance will remain the protective shield for our people, and the behavior of the Israeli occupation on the ground will determine the course and nature of dealing with it,” added Hamas.

Former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin told Army Radio on Wednesday morning that, while Operation Guardian of the Walls had achieved a “great deal” of deterrence, it had not achieved complete deterrence, as evidenced by the incendiary balloons.

“Hamas threatened, but remembered what happened to it when it fired on Jerusalem – so it did not fire yesterday,” added Yadlin. “There is a miss opportunity to create new rules. If Hamas knows that after burning fields we will attack empty compounds – it will continue.”

After Operation Guardian of the Walls in mid-May, Gantz warned that Israel would respond forcefully to any act of aggression against Israel.

While Gantz stressed that he “wasn’t promising” to attack for “every rocket or balloon at 3 a.m.” he added that he would attack when it was “convenient” for Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also made statements in the past warning that incendiary balloons would be treated like rockets.

The Hamas terrorist movement had called for a “Day of Rage” to confront the long-awaited and controversial flag march on Tuesday, encouraging Palestinians to “mobilize” at al-Aqsa and the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Let next Tuesday be a day of mobilization and a bond towards al-Aqsa Mosque, and a day of anger and defiance of the occupier,” said Hamas in a statement on Sunday. “Show God and your people what you have done in it, and be the best sword for Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad released a statement on Tuesday stating that it will respond “with full force to the provocations of the settlers in the Holy City,” ahead of the flag march being held later in the evening.

PIJ called for Palestinians to gather throughout Jerusalem, especially at al-Aqsa Mosque and in areas where the flag march is scheduled to pass.

Additional Palestinian groups echoed the calls, calling for a confrontation with Israel if Jerusalem is “violated.”

Despite the threats, the march took place with relatively little violence. Some clashes were reported between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, but they had largely ended by Tuesday evening.

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