IDF said to strike Hamas border post after apparent balloon attack from Gaza

Reported shelling follows blast in Sderot suspected of being caused by explosives launched from the Strip

By TOI staff Today, 4:26 pm

Young Palestinian men prepare flammable objects to be launched toward Israel, near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, January 18, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israeli military fired a shell at a Hamas observation post along the Gaza border Sunday afternoon, apparently in response to the launching of a balloon-borne explosive device from the Strip, Palestinian media reported Sunday.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

An explosives-laden balloon had earlier detonated over Sderot in southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage, according to Israeli media reports. The Sderot municipality said it was aware of the reports regarding the explosion, but was unable to locate the source of the blast.

The reported Israeli retaliatory attack was not immediately confirmed by the military.

חשד: בלון ממולכד התפוצץ בעיר שדרות. איש לא נפגע – וואלה! חדשות

— מוקד החדשות של ישראל (@mokednewsil) January 19, 2020
On Friday, police sappers were scrambled in the coastal city of Ashdod after an explosive device tied to a bunch of balloons was found near the town’s promenade.

Terror groups in the Gaza Strip have flown in numerous bombs and incendiary devices into Israeli territory from the enclave with the aid of helium-filled balloons.

Police called on the public to alert authorities to any suspicious-looking objects and refrain from approaching them.

On Thursday at least two clusters of balloons carrying explosive devices were apparently launched from the Strip into southern Israel, with one of them detonating soon after impact, police said. The previous day as well, police sappers were dispatched to the border town of Sderot where a suspicious object attached to a cluster of balloons landed in a residential neighborhood.

Israeli aircraft attacked targets in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday for the second day in a row in response to explosives-laden balloons. There were no reports from Gaza on damage or casualties in the strikes.

Video published by Israel’s Kan news purported to show Hamas members leaving a post ahead of the strike.

תיעוד: אנשי חמאס נמלטים מהעמדה בצפון הרצועה, לפני התקיפה@Itsik_zuarets (צילום: דדי פולד)

— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 16, 2020
The tactic of launching balloons carrying explosive and arson devices from Gaza into Israel emerged in 2018 as part of a series of protests and riots along the Strip’s border, known collectively as the March of Return. The simple and cheap method of attack by Palestinians has proved effective as Israeli security forces have struggled to counter the tactic, but had largely stopped over half a year ago.

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