Israel bombs Gaza for eighth day in a row as it threatens Hamas with war

Middle East Eye  /  August 19, 2020

Reports that the warplanes struck agricultural land in the eastern Zaitoun area of the besieged enclave.

Israeli warplanes bombed the besieged Gaza Strip overnight after Palestinian militants reportedly fired a rocket into southern Israel, the army said.

The latest exchange came as Israel threatened Hamas – the de facto ruling party in the blockaded Palestinian territory – that it was risking “war” by failing to stop incendiary balloons it said were being launched across the border.

Egyptian security officials shuttled between the two sides in a bid to end the flare-up, which has seen more than a week of nightly Israeli attacks and rocket and incendiary balloon launched from Gaza.

“Earlier tonight, a rocket was fired and during the day, explosive and arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” said an Israeli military statement released on Tuesday shortly before midnight (9pm GMT).

The army added that “fighter jets and [other] aircraft struck additional Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip”, reportedly striking a Hamas military compound.

There were reports that the warplanes had struck agricultural land in the eastern Zaitoun area of the enclave.

There were no reports from Gaza of casualties.

‘This is not a game’

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued a warning to Hamas on Tuesday during a visit to firefighters in the border area who said they were called out to 40 blazes caused by incendiary balloons.

“Terrorism using incendiary kites and balloons is terrorism just like any other,” Rivlin told them, according to a statement from his office.

“Hamas should know that this is not a game. The time will come when they have to decide… If they want war, they will get war,” said Rivlin, whose post is largely ceremonial.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and countless flare-ups since 2008.

Despite a truce last year backed by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar, Hamas and Israel clash sporadically.

A Hamas source told AFP it had held talks with the Egyptian delegation in Gaza on Monday before it left the territory for meetings with the Israelis and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The Egyptian delegation was expected to return to Gaza after those talks were concluded, the source added.

Power plant shut down

The besieged Gaza Strip’s only power plant shut down on Tuesday due to a shortage of fuel, less than a week after Israel suspended shipments and closed the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Gaza relies on Israel for most of its energy needs, receiving six hours of electricity a day followed by a 10-hour power cut.

Following Israel’s ban on fuel imports, the power supply in Gaza has been operating for three or four hours, followed by 15 hours of blackouts.

Israel has also banned fishing off Gaza’s coast.

Israel has maintains a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, which critics say amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave’s two million residents.

Egypt also upholds the siege, restricting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

The United Nations has long warned that Gaza would become unliveable by 2020 if the siege wasn’t lifted.