In the context of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Hamas have developed several methods of communication to circumvent their official lack of direct contact. One of the terror group’s preferred means of getting a message across to Israel has been balloon-borne incendiary devices.
Since the practice of launching them began in 2018, such arson attacks have come to serve as an initial, limited way of indicating to Israel that Hamas is serious about its demands — now, as in the past, for Qatari aid to enter the Strip — and that it is willing to escalate tensions, potentially to the point of combat, in order to see them fulfilled.
Throughout the day on Sunday several balloons sparked brushfires in southern Israel, which were quickly extinguished by Israeli firefighters.
The balloons are typically not launched directly by Hamas operatives, but by smaller groups on the border. However, as Hamas maintains strict control over the frontier, it has to give at least tacit approval for the arson attacks, if not explicitly order them.
In response, Israel cut the Gaza fishing zone by half, from 12 nautical miles to six, and launched a series of late-night airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces said warplanes hit several buildings on a Hamas military base, as well as unspecified “infrastructure and utilities used for activities” of the terror group. It noted the base was located “adjacent to civilian sites, including a school,” without providing details.
According to the Hamas-affiliated al-Resalah newspaper, Israeli planes bombed areas west of Gaza City, before striking to the east of Khan Younis. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasim mocked Israel’s airstrikes as a “failed attempt to show its own impotent power and restore its army’s battered image after it was shaken” during the latest round of fighting between the two sides in May.
“The noble resistance is ready to deal with all options, nor will it allow the occupation to impose its equations,” said Qasim, referring to the balance of deterrence between Hamas and Israel.
The exchange came amid a delay in the entry of Qatari-purchased fuel into Gaza on Sunday — it was allowed in on Monday morning, according to Israel — and wider frustration within Hamas over Israel’s refusal to allow in greater quantities of reconstruction materials and aid money following the 11-day conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.
Israel has refused to allow major reconstruction of the Gaza Strip beyond what Defense Minister Benny Gantz has described as “basic humanitarian aid” levels unless Hamas returns Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed and the remains of two IDF soldiers — Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin — who have been held captive by the terror group in the Strip.