Israeli forces have launched airstrikes on Gaza, the first offensive since a new coalition government took power, coming just weeks after an 11-day conflict with the Palestinian enclave.
Blasts were heard at multiple locations in Gaza around 1:00am local time on Wednesday, Reuters and AFP reported, while a radio station operated by the Hamas militant group said strikes targeted a Palestinian training camp. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the operations in a statement on Twitter, also sharing footage of one of the strikes.
“Fighter jets recently attacked Hamas military complexes that served as camps and meeting places for terrorist operatives in the Khan Yunis and Gaza brigades,” the military said, adding that it is “prepared for all scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities.”
The attack was carried out in response to the inflating of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory.
תיעוד מתקיפות צה״ל ברצועה: pic.twitter.com/kfSrUE1dBg
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) June 15, 2021
According to local media reports, the incendiary balloons ignited at least 20 fires around Israel.
Footage purporting to show the attack in progress has circulated on social media. It is unclear where the videos were captured, but unconfirmed reports noted a flurry of strikes around Khan Younis.
Video reportedly of an IDF strike in southern Gaza this evening. pic.twitter.com/X9NgCjGOqX
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) June 15, 2021
Video from one or the strikes this evening shows a secondary launching at 15~ seconds in. Potential rocket/munition targeted at one of Hamas sites this evening. pic.twitter.com/5GcrGxQRDJ
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) June 15, 2021
The balloons also coincided with an Israeli ‘Flag March’ through Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday, held yearly in celebration of Tel Aviv’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Despite fears the march, led by Israeli nationalist groups, could stoke tensions with the Palestinians, law enforcement authorized the event. Tensions from the march spilled over into clashes, not only in Jerusalem but along the Gaza-Israel border as well, leading to multiple arrests. One Palestinian was shot in the leg, but was only lightly injured, the Times of Israel reported.
The march had been postponed from May, when it is usually held, due to a spike in hostilities with armed groups in Gaza, which spiraled into 11 days of fighting that killed more than 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel. The violence ended after a ceasefire deal mediated by Egypt late last month.
The latest strikes also come as the first bout of hostilities with Gaza under a new Israeli government, with Naftali Bennett sworn in as prime minister on Sunday. Dubbed the “Change Bloc” and composed of right-wing, centrist and even Arab parties, the diverse coalition ended a 12-year reign by longtime PM Benjamin Netanyahu, after four consecutive elections in two years failed to produce a lasting majority.