Incendiary balloons from Gaza prompt new Israeli airstrikes


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(JTA) — After balloons filled with incendiary material were sent from Gaza into the Israeli countryside, Israel’s military launched a fresh offensive of airstrikes on Hamas targets on Wednesday.

There were no casualties on either side, Reuters reported.

The violence started after thousands of Israeli nationalists paraded through Jerusalem’s Old City neighborhood, shouting anti-Arab rhetoric, such as “Death to Arabs,” according to the Associated Press. Police watched the demonstration closely and blocked the marchers from entering heavily Muslim areas of the city.

A Hamas spokesperson said that the balloons were an act of “brave resistance” to defend Palestinian “rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem. But some analysts suggested to Reuters that the balloons were not orchestrated by Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza and the U.S. and Israel deem a terrorist group.

Israel reportedly warned Egypt — which was a mediator in the recent Israel-Gaza fighting that killed about 230 Gazans and 12 Israelis — that continued acts of aggression will imperil the cease-fire agreed to on May 20.

The Israel Defense Forces said it is “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza,” according to Reuters.

Israel’s new government led by a diverse coalition of parties is just days into its existence after ousting Benjamin Netanyahu, who had served as prime minister for 12 years. New Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that the coalition wants to avoid tackling difficult issues, such as the conflict with the Palestinians, in its early stages.

Yair Lapid, a centrist who is serving as foreign minister for two years before he is slated to take over the prime minister role from Bennett, condemned the Israeli demonstrators in Jerusalem.

“It is incomprehensible that people can hold the Israeli flag in one hand and shout ‘Death to Arabs’ at the same time,” Lapid tweeted. “This isn’t Judaism or Israeliness, and it is definitely not what our flag symbolizes. These people are a disgrace to the nation of Israel.”

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