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Israel strikes Gaza after incendiary balloons launched from besieged strip

Israeli forces hit targets in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and Gaza city, Palestinian media reported
A fireball rises following an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, late on 23 August, 2021 (AFP)

Israel struck targets in Gaza on Monday night after multiple incendiary balloons were launched from the besieged territory, Palestinian media reported.

Israeli forces fired at least three missiles at a target in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, and Israel also struck empty agricultural land in Gaza City's al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, according to the Quds News Network.

On Sunday night, incendiary balloons were reportedly launched from Gaza towards southern Israel. A number of fires were reported on Monday morning there, although it is unclear as of yet if the fires were caused by incendiary balloons.

In a statement, the fire service said it was working to contain a number of fires in the Eshkol border region.

The strikes come days after Israeli forces shot and injured more than two dozen Palestinians during a festival in the Gaza Strip commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 arson attack on al-Aqsa Mosque.

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The Gaza-based Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Saturday that at least 41 Palestinians were injured in total, including two people who were critically wounded, one of whom has been identified as a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head.

On Saturday night, Israel conducted air strikes in the Gaza Strip, saying it had targeted Hamas sites. 

Gaza-based Palestinian factions announced on Monday that they planned to stage a major rally in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel on Wednesday.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade on the territory since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and took control of the strip, with the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza severely restricted.

In recent months, the two million Palestinians living in Gaza have faced further tightening of Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods. Israel has prevented the import of materials and equipment into Gaza and imposed strict restrictions on exports, leading to a state of "paralysis" in several sectors of Gaza's economy.

The Israeli government argues that mechanisms for aid to enter Gaza need to be guaranteed so it does not reach Hamas.

Last week, a decision by Israel to confiscate 23 tonnes of chocolate bars destined for Gaza due to the same claim - that sales would fund Hamas military operations - sparked ridicule and criticism on social media.

On Wednesday, a group of more than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to the Biden administration calling on it to push both Israel and Egypt to fully open their border crossings into Gaza.