The Daily Telegraph

Israeli air strikes on Hamas raise tensions in Gaza Strip

- By Finbar Anderson

TENSIONS rose in the Gaza Strip after the Israel Defence Forces carried out air attacks against Hamas positions.

The attacks were made after rockets and makeshift firebombs were sent into Israeli territory on Saturday night, Israel’s military said.

The IDF said two more rockets were fired from the Strip yesterday morning, but both were intercepte­d by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.

Benny Gantz, the Israeli defence minister, ordered the closure of the fishing zone off the Gaza coast “until further notice” yesterday. Israel and Egypt have enforced a blockade against the territory since Hamas took power in 2007, and often close the fishing zone as a punitive response to unrest.

Israeli forces have carried out a number of night-time air strikes over the past week against targets associated with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The IDF said combat helicopter­s and tanks had hit a number of Hamas targets, including observatio­n sites and undergroun­d infrastruc­ture.

No casualties were reported in the latest escalation of violence, although Israeli officials said that makeshift firebombs, attached either to balloons or kites, had ignited over 100 minor fires in southern Israel.

Clashes along the Gaza-israel border broke out Saturday evening. The IDF said dozens of Palestinia­n “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it”.

A landmark peace agreement signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has stoked tensions in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinia­n Territorie­s. The Palestinia­n leadership called the deal a “betrayal”, and Palestinia­ns held protests against it in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Abu Dhabi has portrayed the deal – which was supported by some other regional states such as Egypt – as a boon to the Palestinia­n cause, given that it requires that Israel put on hold plans to annex large parts of the West Bank. However, the US ambassador to Israel said Israel had not abandoned its annexation plans. “It’s not off the table, it’s just something that will be deferred until we give peace every single chance,” David Friedman said at a news conference earlier in the week.

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