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Israel bombs Hamas site in Gaza over fire balloons

Hamas describes strikes as a 'showy reaction' after incendiary devices caused at least four brush fires near Israeli cities
Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave, confirmed one of its sites had been struck (AFP file photo)

Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas site in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave, Israel's military said on Friday.

Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave, confirmed one of its sites had been struck. 

Israel's military said it had hit a Hamas weapons manufacturing site. There were no reports of casualties.

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Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the Israeli strikes a "showy reaction" and said Palestinians were "putting pressure on [Israel], forcing it to respect the rights of our people and to walk back its unjust positions."

Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip in May killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, while Palestinian rockets killed 13 in Israel, including two children. A further 29 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem during the same period.

Since a ceasefire was agreed on 21 May, Palestinians in Gaza have sporadically launched balloons laden with incendiary material across the border, causing fires that have burned fields in Israel.

Palestinians say the balloons aim to pressure Israel to ease restrictions on the coastal enclave that were tightened during the May fighting. 

Last week Israel agreed to resume limited exports from Gaza, including agricultural produce that was going to waste, after halting exports since the fighting in May.

Mediation efforts

Balloon launches had ebbed after Israel eased some restrictions on Gaza last week. 

However, on Thursday balloons were again launched from Gaza, causing at least four brush fires near Israeli cities along the fence separating the enclave from Israel.

"In response to the arson balloon fire towards Israeli territory today IDF [Israeli military] fighter jets struck weapons manufacturing site belonging [to] Hamas," the military said in a statement.

Egypt and the United Nations have stepped up mediation efforts over the Israeli strikes and Gaza balloon launches, though the incidents have not led to a broader escalation.