Flaming balloons are released by Palestinian demonstrators to the Israeli side during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City May 11, 2018. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
An Israeli army drone struck a Palestinian cell launching incendiary balloons from the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon
Earlier in the day, two flaming balloons landed in schoolyards in southern Israel. The first, a condom with an arson device attached to it, landed in the yard of an empty elementary school in the Eshkol Regional Council and was neutralized by local security forces.
A second one landed in the yard of a kindergarten in a community in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. Although the schoolyard was full of students at the time there were no injuries and the device was also safely neutralized.
According to local reports in Gaza, two youth were injured in the IDF strike near the city of Jabalya.
Tensions have risen significantly following a flare-up of violence over the weekend when Hamas launched 200 mortars and rockets into southern Israel and Israel retaliated by striking over 40 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.
For a second day in a row, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited southern Israel and held a situational assessment at the IDF’s Gaza Division with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, along with other senior officials.
“We’re in a campaign, there is an exchange of blows, and I can tell you the IDF is prepared for any scenario,” Netanyahu said afterwards. “I was very impressed by what I saw here and I know that, like me, all Israeli citizens believe in the IDF and give it backing ahead of any possible development.”
Israel's weekend in 60 seconds- 200 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, July 15, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Liberman, who also visited the 401st Division drill in the South of the country stated that “the IDF is ready and prepared for any mission that we give it.”
The defense minister also addressed a heated exchange between Education Minister Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Eisenkot during a security cabinet meeting where the two clashed on how to deal with the incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip that are burning southern Israeli fields and forests.
“We heard a lot of things about security policies of the Israeli government. So, first of all, it is worth making clear that security policy is an answer to political or media pressure,” the defense minister said.
“We operate both powerfully and wisely. What is necessary for us right now is coolheadedness and nerves of steel, and not a timer in the hand and media hysteria. We are doing what we need to do,” he added.
On Monday evening, Israel limited the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, stopping the transfer of fuel and gas supplies but allowing essential medicines and food to pass. The fishing zone in the Gaza Strip was also reduced from a range of six to three nautical miles.
Israel has threatened further action if the incendiary kites and balloons do not stop.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad responded by saying that there would be “severe consequences” for tightening the siege on Gaza and that additional pressure on the coastal enclave would lead the region to “an explosion.”
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