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GAZA: Israeli warplanes struck a Hamas target in Gaza overnight, the military said yesterday, even as a Qatari envoy joined efforts to broker an end to the almost three-week flare-up. Israel has bombed the Hamas-ruled enclave almost daily since August 6, in response to the launch of airborne incendiary devices and, less frequently, rockets across the border.
The fire bombs, crude devices fitted to balloons, inflated condoms or plastic bags, have triggered a rash of blazes in southern Israel that have caused significant damage to crops. “During the day, explosive and arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel,” the Israeli military said. “In response … fighter jets and (other) aircraft struck an underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the southern Gaza Strip.”
The fire balloons are widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to improve the terms of an informal truce under which Israel committed to ease its 13-year-old blockade in return for calm on the border. But so far Israel’s response has been to tighten the blockade. It has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of Gaza’s sole power plant for want of fuel.
An Egyptian delegation has been shuttling between the two sides to try to broker a renewal of the truce, and on Tuesday evening Qatar’s Gaza envoy Mohammed El-Emadi entered the territory to join the mediation effort. The latest agreed ceasefire, which has already been renewed several times, has been bolstered by millions of dollars in financial aid from the gas-rich Gulf state. Sources close to the envoy said he was delivering a new tranche of 30 million dollars for disbursement to needy families in the impoverished enclave.
Sources close to Hamas say it also wants other measures to ease living conditions in the territory where unemployment exceeds 50 percent. They include the extension of an industrial zone in the east of Gaza, the construction of a new power line, and an increase in the number of Israeli work permits issued to Gazans once anti-coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. On Monday, the Hamas authorities announced a 48-hour lockdown across the territory after four cases of the virus were confirmed in a Gaza Strip refugee camp.
Meanwhile, four members of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad were killed in Gaza overnight by the accidental explosion of a bomb they were handling, witnesses and security sources said Tuesday. A statement from the Islamist group, Gaza’s second strongest after the ruling Hamas movement, said that “four martyrs” died while “performing their duty”, their usual term for what Israel calls a “work accident”.
It said that those killed in the “accidental” blast included Iyad Jamas al-Jadi, 42, a commander linked to missile manufacturing units. According to witnesses and Palestinian security sources, the militants were preparing an improvised bomb which went off prematurely. Since August 6, Palestinians have been attacking Israel almost daily with incendiary devices attached to balloons.
The balloons have so far caused more than 400 fires in scrub, nature reserves and farmland, according to a tally of daily reports by Israeli fire services. Israel has responded with almost nightly air strikes. In addition, it has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of Gaza’s sole power plant for want of fuel. The cross-border exchanges have caused some injuries but no deaths on either side, according to the Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
Shots fired from Lebanon
In another development, Israeli aircraft struck posts belonging to the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah early yesterday after shots were fired from Lebanon towards its troops, Israel’s military said. No Israeli troops were wounded in the firing, the military said. Soldiers deployed illumination flares, smoke shells and live fire after the shots from the Lebanese side of the frontier, it said.
“In response, overnight, IDF attack helicopters and aircraft struck observation posts belonging to the Hezbollah terror organization in the border area,” the military said in a statement, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. Tension has been running high on the border. Last month, Israel said Hezbollah carried out an infiltration attempt, which the Iran-backed group denied. The Israeli military said it lifted a curfew it had imposed overnight.- Agencies
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