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Israel carries out fresh air strikes against Hamas over 'incendiary balloons'

A number of Hamas sites, including an observation post, were hit near Gaza City, causing damage but no injuries
The air strikes were the fourth since Saturday (AFP/File)

Israeli jets struck a Hamas military target in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for balloon-borne explosive devices late on Tuesday, the army said, the fourth such strike in recent days.

A Palestinian security source confirmed the strikes, with no injuries reported.

The army said in a statement that "fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip".

"The strike was conducted in response to explosive balloons that were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory," it added.

A Palestinian security source in Gaza said a number of Hamas sites, including an observation post, were hit near Gaza City, causing damage but no injuries.

Witnesses also described an explosion at a Hamas site in southern Gaza, though the Israeli army statement did not mention such targets, the AFP news agency reported.

The Israeli air strikes were the fourth since Saturday, each, according to the army, in response to either balloons or explosive devices hurled at the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

Egyptian-brokered truce

The so-called incendiary balloons involve flaming devices floated across the border with the aim of starting fires in the Israeli communities and farmlands on the other side.

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Clusters of balloons, or kites, have been flown during the nearly year-long Great March of Return protests.

The use of flying incendiary devices largely stopped after an informal Egyptian-brokered truce agreement between Hamas and Israel in November.

Under that deal, Israel agreed to ease its crippling blockade of Gaza in exchange for calm.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip has accused Israel of breaching the terms of the agreement.

An Egyptian security delegation met for talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza on Tuesday.

Anniversary approaching

Palestinians have been protesting since 30 March 2018 as part of the Great March of Return, with the first anniversary of the campaign approaching at the end of this month.

The protest campaign calls for an end to the 12-year Israeli blockade of Gaza and for Palestinian refugees' right of return to the lands that their families fled during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

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At least 256 Palestinians have been killed and some 29,000 injured in Gaza since the demonstrations began according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, mostly by Israeli fire during protests but also by air and tank strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period, one by a Palestinian sniper and another during a botched Israeli special forces operation within the Gaza Strip.

Israel maintains a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip, which critics say amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave's two million residents.

Egypt also upholds the siege, restricting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.