Gaza militant sites Photograph:( Reuters )
Militants in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza in recent days have launched dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material in a bid to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of the Strip and allow new economic projects.
Israel said its military struck Hamas militant sites in the Gaza Strip early Thursday in response to Palestinians in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched tracts of farmland on the Israeli frontier.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and numerous smaller flareups since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Militants in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza in recent days have launched dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material in a bid to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of the Strip and allow new economic projects.
The military said its targets included a compound used by Hamas' naval force and underground infrastructure and observation posts. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.
Israel also said it would stop shipments of fuel into Gaza.
Israel, which cites security threats from Hamas for its land and naval blockade, had earlier retaliated by closing the Strip's main commercial crossing and striking Hamas military facilities with warplanes, attack helicopters and tanks.
A ceasefire deal brokered last year by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations following a deadly surge in violence was to see Israel allow new development projects, including an industrial zone and a hospital.
Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with those understandings. Israel, which deems Hamas a terrorist organisation, shuns direct negotiations and has never publicly acknowledged the deal.
On Wednesday, Israel reduced the area where it permits Palestinians to fish from 15 miles (24 km) to eight miles (13 km), calling it a response to the balloon launches.
(with inputs from agencies)