The Israeli Defence Forces did not perform any retaliatory actions for a second day of incendiary balloons launched from Gaza on Wednesday, despite local authorities reporting that four small fires were started in the Eshkol Regional Council neighbouring the strip by balloons that landed in fields there. Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services have since reported that they were able to contain the fires.
The launches followed airstrikes after midnight on Wednesday by the Israeli Air Force on Hamas military compounds in Khan Yunis and Gaza City, after balloons launched from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday caused at least 20 fires. In the statement announcing the airstrikes, the Israeli Defence Force’s Spokesperson’s Unit said that Hamas was responsible for the recent balloon launches and would bear the consequences for them, adding that it was “prepared for all scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist operations from the Gaza Strip”.
Hamas struck a defiant tone in its response, calling the airstrikes “a failed attempt to stop our people’s solidarity and resistance with the Holy City, and to cover up the unprecedented state of confusion for the Zionist establishment in organizing the so-called ‘Flag March.’”
No official statements have been made as to why there was no IDF response following the continued balloon launches, but Zman Yisrael has reported that a delegation from Israel’s National Security Council will be traveling to Egypt today to negotiate a long-term truce with Hamas. The indirect negotiations are being mediated by Egypt, with Israel demanding the return of Israeli captives before any discussions on civil issues are to be made.
The balloon launches and airstrikes come just under a month after a ceasefire that ended 11 days of fighting, and just days after the swearing in of a new Israeli government that ended both Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 year run as Prime Minister and political deadlock that had resulted in four elections in two years. The wide-ranging coalition led by Naftali Bennett has already faced its first major test in the form of the aforementioned “Flag March”, which saw thousands of Israeli right wing nationalists march through Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had denounced members of the march filmed chanting “Death to Arabs” and other racist slogans, tweeting that the marchers chanting the slogans were “a disgrace to the nation of Israel”.
Tensions caused by the march had resulted in clashes between Palestinian counter-protesters and police in the Old City prior to the march, with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reporting that it had treated 33 Palestinians injured in the clashes, of which six required hospitalization. Riots also broke out Tuesday evening at the Israel-Gaza Strip border.