Israeli military aircraft struck a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip used as a launching pad for incendiary kites Saturday night, the military said Sunday.
For the past several weeks, Gazans have been regularly flying kites outfitted with containers of burning fuel, often including charcoal and bags of sugar to ensure a long, slow burn.
The attack was in response to “terrorists launching burning incendiaries in an attempt to a cause fire in Israeli territory,” an army spokesperson said.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in Palestinian media.
The army said the Hamas site was located next to the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, which has been the scene of several weeks of violent confrontations over the past weeks.
This was the first known case of the army striking a Hamas site in response to the kite firebombs, dozens of which have been launched in recent weeks.
The kite tactic was introduced as part of the weekly “March of Return” demonstrations at the border fence, which began on March 30 and are due to continue through mid-May.
Palestinians flew a burning kite into Israel Friday morning, starting a blaze close to Kibbutz Kissufim. On Wednesday a fire kite flown from Gaza sparked a large blaze in fields in southern Israel that spread through dozens of acres of grasslands and agricultural fields, authorities said, the largest fire yet since the first use of these kites.
“The IDF will continue to operate against terror activity above and below ground, and holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for all terror activities in the Gaza strip,” an army statement Sunday said.
The move comes after several Israeli reports that the army was considering ramping up its response to the kites, including targeting those launching them with lethal force.
The army specifically noted Sunday that there was “no connection whatsoever” between the strike and a large blast rocked the central Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least six members of Hamas’s military wing, according to the terror group.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said the fatalities were its members. It blamed Israel for the explosion, without providing details or proof.
Palestinian media, by contrast, said it was a “work accident” — that is, that the terrorists were killed by their own explosives.
The incident occurred during a “complex security and intelligence operation,” the brigades said in a statement, calling it “serious and large security incident” and blaming the “Zionist enemy.”
Last month four Islamic Jihad members were killed in an accidental explosion near the Gaza Strip border with Israel.
Scene of explosion in Central #Gaza Strip. 4 Palestinians killed. This is being reported as an ‘accidental explosion’ which usually involves members of Islamic resistance groups. pic.twitter.com/hdzxF6vnPh
— Joe (@Jtruzmah) May 5, 2018
The group said in a statement that the four died during “preparations,” without giving further details. Army Radio reported that the terrorists were killed while carrying explosives in an all-terrain vehicle, suggesting the blast may have been a “work accident.” AFP said they were riding a tuk tuk vehicle, or auto-rickshaw, which exploded a few hundred meters from the border with Israel.