Israel Attacks Hamas Militants Launching Incendiary Balloons From Gaza

The Israel Air Force attacked Hamas militants in Gaza on Sunday who the Israeli army said were launching incendiary balloons. No casualties were reported.

“We have prepared a large number of targets that will surprise Hamas, targets such as terror tunnels, the Beit Lahia battalion in which we attacked some 20 buildings and a multi-story building in the center of the Gaza Strip that served Hamas as a training facility with a tunnel underneath it,” said a senior Air Force officer on Sunday.

The IDF made the decision on Saturday that the extensive attack, even though it took place during daylight hours, to avoid casualties – both civilian casualties, as well as Hamas casualties if possible. The operation was run from the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv and in order to avoid results that would lead to an escalation of the situation.

Dozens of Israeli planes participated in the strikes and dropped about 100 bombs on dozens of Hamas targets.

“Yesterday’s attack was not strong relative to the Air Force’s capabilities,” said the senior officer. “But we have a very large arsenal of targets that we know how to operate against during the day and at night. We have good intelligence and excellent cooperation with the Southern Command. If it is decided that it will not be quiet in the south then we know how to act effectively in a manner that will bring back the quiet,” he added.

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The IDF is still finding it difficult to attack the cells firing mortar shells and launching rockets. An attempt was made to attack one of these cells on Saturday but it was unclear whether they were hit. On Sunday, it was learned that the launcher itself was damaged but not what happened to the militants who launched the projectiles.

The Air Force considers the latest round of fighting to be an operational success. The targets were achieved but at this stage the IDF is still waiting to learn how Hamas will respond, said the senior officer. But it seems for now that despite the attacks on Saturday, Hamas did not lose any major assets that damaged its capabilities and would lead it to rethink its path.  

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas from right-wing criticism on saying Israel will not allow incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza to continue. "We hit Hamas in a significant way and hard. Our policy is clear: Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength."

Netanyahu added: "The IDF dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later."

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel will not sit idly by while Hamas launched "rockets, kites, unmanned drones or anything."