Israel said on Thursday it would stop shipments of fuel into Gaza in response to Palestinians in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched tracts of farmland on the Israeli frontier.
At dawn on the same day, Israeli warplanes raided several locations of the Hamas military wing across Gaza, calling it a response to the balloons, but no injuries were reported.
Israel had earlier shut down Gaza’s main commercial crossing and reduced the area where it permits Palestinians to fish.
In the Al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City, a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was damaged by one of the missile strikes fired by an Israeli warplane, Gaza’s interior ministry said.
The school was empty at the time and there were no reports of casualties. “Apparently the device did not explode,” an UNRWA statement said.
Hamas holds Israel responsible for the military escalation and stifling blockade in Gaza.
“These aggressive policies aim to exacerbate the crises our people in Gaza are enduring, to paralyze their daily life and to disrupt the efforts of combating corona virus amid international and regional silence.” Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the Hamas group, said in a statement.
Palestinians in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza have launched dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material in recent days to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of the territory.
Fuel shipments were stopped “in light of the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip toward Israel and of the undermining of security stability,” a defence ministry said in a written statement.
Hamas called the measure a grave act of aggression that would deepen Gaza’s economic hardship.
Gaza relies on Israel for most of its energy needs. Its population of two million currently receives around six hours of electricity followed by a 10 hour power cut.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008 and have traded blows in the past few years.
Citing security concerns, Israel keeps tight control of its border crossings with Gaza and imposes a naval blockade.
(Source: Reuters London)