IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Israeli military says it launched airstrike at Gaza over incendiary balloons

It is the first violence since a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians last month ended 11 days of fighting.
Get more newsLiveon

The Israeli military said Wednesday that its fighter jets struck Hamas compounds in Gaza after incendiary balloons were launched into Israel — in the first such violence since a cease-fire between the two sides ended 11 days of fighting last month.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israeli Defense Forces said fighter jets struck military compounds used as facilities and meeting sites for “terrorist operatives” in the Gaza Strip.

The military said Hamas, a militant group that runs the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, is responsible for “all events” that happen in Gaza and would “bear the consequences” for its actions. It also shared a video of what it said were IDF strikes.

“The IDF is prepared for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities, in the face of continuing terror activities from the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Hazem Qassem, a media spokesman for Hamas, said Wednesday that the strikes in the Gaza strip were a “failed attempt” to stop Palestinian people’s solidarity and resistance with Jerusalem. He added that Palestinians would continue to defend their rights.

Video footage released by The Associated Press showed masked Palestinians in Gaza launching incendiary balloons toward Israel on Tuesday. NBC News could not independently verify the footage.

The Israeli fire department said there were 20 fires in Israel Tuesday caused by "arson balloons."

The AP said the video of Palestinians launching the balloons was shot ahead of a planned march by right-wing Israelis in Jerusalem. Incendiary balloon units in Gaza also said Tuesday that they were ready to respond to "attacks in Jerusalem" that coincided with the march.

Image: Masked Palestinian supporters of the Al-Nasir Salah Al-Din Brigades prepare incendiary balloon
Masked Palestinian supporters of the Al-Nasir Salah Al-Din Brigades prepare incendiary balloons east of Gaza city, to launch across the border fence towards Israel on June 15, 2021.Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hundreds of people, some chanting "Death to Arabs" and cursing the Prophet Mohammed paraded through east Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The march tested Israel’s new government that was sworn in Sunday, as well as the fragile truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. The 11-day exchange of fire last month left more than 250 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis dead, and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished Gaza Strip.

Its impact was also felt within Israel’s cities, where the country’s 2 million-strong Arab minority makes up about 20 percent of its 9.2 million population. They have complained of being second-class citizens in Israel, pointing to the impact of both legislation and rhetoric under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.

Palestinians consider Tuesday's march, which celebrates Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in 1967, a provocation. They want Jerusalem to be the capital of a future, independent Palestinian state. Hamas and other Palestinian factions called on Palestinians to “resist” the parade by partaking in a “day of rage.”

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, of the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, described the march as a “provocation and aggression” against Palestinians and Jerusalem and warned of “dangerous repercussions” in a tweet Monday.

Meanwhile Wednesday, the IDF said it had received a report of a car-ramming and stabbing attack in the West Bank. The attacker was “neutralized” at the scene, the military said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the attack was connected to the events overnight.

The new coalition government recently came together to oust Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister after 12 consecutive years in power and three more before that — which made him the country's longest-tenured leader.

Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a right-wing leader and a former Netanyahu protégé. He will hold office for the first two years of the new government's term before handing the role to Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party.

Bennett has promised a pragmatic approach as he presides over a disparate coalition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CORRECTION (June 16, 2021, 10:30 a.m. ET): A headline on a previous version of this article misstated the nature of the Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military fired missiles, not rockets. The reference to rockets has been deleted.