Aug. 24 (UPI) — The Israel Defense Forces said it struck Hamas targets in Gaza overnight and into Tuesday in response to incendiary balloons launched at Israel as a human rights advocacy organization accuses it of violating war laws during its siege on the Palestinian territory in May.
Israeli warplanes struck a weapons manufacturing site in Khan Yunis, tunnel entrances in Jabalia and an underground rocket launch site Shejaiy in the Palestinian-controlled region that borders the Mediterranean sea, the military said.
“We will continue to respond firmly against all terrorist activities from Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all activity that originates from the Gaza Strip, and its air force said its strikes were in response to incendiary balloons launched into Israeli territory on Monday, calling it “another example of how Hamas continues to employ terror tactics and target civilians.”
The Israeli Air Force added via Twitter that it will “continue to respond forcefully to any terror attempts emanating from Gaza.”
Hamas responded to the attacks early Tuesday, stating the bombing “will only increase our determination and perseverance to extract our rights.” The Jerusalem Post reported.
“The occupation’s bombing of the Gaza Strip demonstrates its confusion and failure regarding the steadfastness and stability of our Palestinian people and our people and our resistance to the extent of the challenge,” Hamas official Ismail Radwan said.
The Israel Foreign Ministry said the incendiary balloons resulted in several fires in southern Israel.
The attack occurred as tensions climb between the two sides.
Over the weekend, an Israeli soldier was critically injured when he was shot at point-blank range during clashes at the security fence in northern Gaza.
Hamas had organized a rally against Israeli’s attacks against the Gaza Strip when the clashes occurred, resulting in dozens of Palestinians injured, at least two critically including a 13-year-old boy.
Earlier this month, at least one rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel in retaliation for Israeli police killing several Palestinians while searching for a Hamas operative.
It was the first rocket fire from Gaza since May when the Israeli military launched the two-week-long Operation Guardian of the Walls in response to Hamas firing rockets at Israel over its plan to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes.
Israel downed buildings, demolished tunnels and hit weapons depots, among a slew of Hamas targets, resulting in the deaths of 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injuring nearly 2,000 during the fighting while Israel lost 12 to Hamas rockets.
Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of violating the laws of war and potentially of having committed war crimes when it destroyed four high-rise buildings in Gaza City during the operation.
Israel said the buildings housed Hamas targets and warned those who inhabited the buildings that they would be targeted to facilitate their evacuation.
The rights advocacy organization said its investigation shows the buildings contained “scores” of businesses offices of news agencies and homes, and the long-term effects of their destruction extends beyond that of the buildings as many jobs were lost, companies were closed and families displace.
The United Nations said at the hight of the fighting in May some 113,000 people in Gaza were displaced and sought shelter and protection from its relief and works agency for Palestine refugees.
“Human Rights Watch found no evidence that members of Palestinian groups involved in military oeprations had a current or long-term presence in any of the towers at the time they were attacked,” the organization said. “Even if there were such a presence, the attacks appeared to cause foreseeably disproportionate harm to civilian property.”