Israel military strikes Hamas after launch of fire balloons

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli warplanes struck two targets in the Gaza Strip early Saturday, the Israeli military said, in response to incendiary balloons launched from Gaza into Israel.

The Israeli military struck what it said was a Hamas military compound and a rocket launching site after four incendiary balloons were launched into Israel, setting fire to land and damaging agriculture. There were no reports of casualties in Israel or Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas.

Israeli media reported that four fires caused by incendiary balloons broke out Friday afternoon in areas close to the Gaza Strip.

The launch of the balloons comes over two months after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the fourth since the militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Israel has done little to ease a crippling blockade on the territory since the fighting ended and Hamas appears to be using incendiary balloons as a pressure tactic. Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennet, has compared the balloon launches to rocket fire.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of Gaza that includes Israeli control over the territory’s coast and airspace and restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Israel says the closure is needed to prevent Hamas from arming while critics say that the measures amount to collective punishment.

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