Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza sites

GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Israeli airstrikes on militant sites in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday elicited a series of retaliatory Palestinian fire-carrying balloons attacks across the border for a second straight day — further testing a fragile cease-fire that ended last month’s war between Israel and Hamas.

The latest round of violence was prompted by a parade of Israeli ultranationalists through contested east Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Palestinians saw the march as a provocation and sent balloons into southern Israel, causing several blazes in parched farmland. Israel then carried out the airstrikes — the first such raids since a May 21 cease-fire ended 11 days of fighting — and more balloons followed.

The airstrikes targeted facilities used by Hamas militants for meetings to plan attacks, the army said. There were no reports of injuries.

On Wednesday afternoon, masked Palestinians sent a number of balloons, laden with fuses and flaming rags, into Israel.

The unrest would test the resolve of the ceasefire reached last month, just as Egyptian mediators began working to reach a longer-term agreement. It comes as tensions have risen again in Jerusalem, as they did before the recent war, leading Gaza’s Hamas rulers to fire a barrage of rockets at the holy city on May 10. The fighting claimed more than 250 Palestinian lives and killed 13 people in Israel.

The flare-up also created a fresh challenge for Israel’s new government, which took office early this week. The diverse coalition includes several hard-line parties as well as dovish and centrist parties, along with the first Arab faction ever to be part of an Israeli government.

Keeping the delicate coalition intact will be a difficult task for the new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett.



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