Israeli planes bomb Gaza as Egyptians seek to restore calm

AFP , Tuesday 18 Aug 2020

Smoke and flames rise after war planes belonging to the Israeli army carried out airstrikes over the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on August 18, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas-ruled Gaza early Tuesday in response to Palestinian fire balloons launched across the border, the Israeli occupation army said.

The strikes came as visiting Egyptian security officials strove to defuse the latest uptick in violence, a Hamas source said.

"Fighter jets and (other) aircraft struck underground infrastructures belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip," an Israeli military statement said.

It linked the air strikes to "explosive and arson balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel".

The Hamas source told AFP the Islamists had held talks with the Egyptian delegation in Gaza on Monday before it left the territory for meetings with the Israelis and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

It was expected to return to Gaza after those talks were concluded, the source added.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Despite a truce last year backed by Egypt and the UN , Hamas and Israel clash sporadically, with Palestinian incendiary balloons or rocket or mortar fire drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes and civil sanctions.

Israel has banned fishing off Gaza's coast and closed the Kerem Shalom goods crossing, cutting off deliveries of fuel to the territory's sole power plant.

The plant's spokesman Mohammed Thabet announced its "complete shutdown" on Tuesday after its fuel ran out.

Power had been in short supply even before the shutdown, with consumers having access to mains electricity for only around eight hours a day.

That will now be cut to just four hours a day using power supplied from the Israeli grid.

For the rest of the time, those Gazans who can afford it rely on solar panels, or generators, which also need fuel.

The Hamas source said there were no casualties in the latest Israeli air raids.

"The occupation continued its aggression and carried out air strikes on Gaza after midnight," he said, adding that the strikes were seen as a "negative response" to the truce feelers.

Gaza security sources and witnesses said the strikes hit Hamas lookout posts at Rafah in the south of the territory and Beit Lahia in the north.

Tensions have been rising for more than a week, with Hamas firing rockets and launching bundles of balloons across the border fitted with incendiary or explosive devices.

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