IDF launches retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza

39 fires ignited in southern Israel on Tuesday by incendiary balloons

A ROCKET IS fired toward Israel from the southern Gaza Strip in February. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
A ROCKET IS fired toward Israel from the southern Gaza Strip in February.
IDF aircraft carried out airstrikes late Tuesday night against numerous Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement.
According to the military, one of the targets was a military compound for one of Hamas's special units.
The attack was carried out in response to a rocket launched from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave into Israel earlier Tuesday evening, as well as the launching of explosive and incendiary balloons during the day.
The rocket, which was aimed at the city of Ashkelon, was fired after Egypt-mediated talks to halt violence in the South fell through.
Sirens were activated in Ashkelon and the community of Zikim around 9 p.m., sending thousands of Israelis to bomb shelters.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed at least one rocket had been fired. There were no injuries or damage caused by the rocket, which reportedly fell in an open field.
"The IDF takes all terrorist activity against Israeli territory very seriously and is prepared and willing to act as much as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens," the IDF said.
"The terrorist organization Hamas bears responsibility for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and will bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens."
Following the rocket fire, the Palestinians involved in the night disturbances along the border fence reportedly canceled the planned demonstrations for the night, expecting retaliatory strikes by the IDF.
Israel has struck Hamas targets in Gaza for each of the past seven days in response to the continued launching of incendiary and explosive balloons from the blockaded coastal enclave into southern Israel, causing hundreds of fires to ignite in fields and forests.
Thirty-nine fires broke out on Tuesday alone.
Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Hamas was “playing with fire” and that he would “make sure that the fire would be turned on them.”
On Monday, an Egyptian envoy met with Hamas officials in Gaza to attempt to prevent an escalation. Hamas gave the envoy a list of demands, which included extending the fishing zone to 20 nautical miles, permitting the import of dual-use materials, increasing work permits and a number of industrial and infrastructure projects, as well as an increase of work permits for Gazan workers allowed into Israel to 100,000 and the opening of the Keren Shalom border crossing according to the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar news.
The terrorist group warned the Egyptian envoy on Monday “Palestinian patience has run out” and that the groups in Gaza are “ready to escalate and not afraid.”
Israel reportedly rejected the demands.
Aaron Reich contributed to this report.