Attacks on Gaza continued for the seventh straight night as Israeli warplanes targeted Hamas observation posts in what the Israeli army said was a response to Palestinian fire balloon attacks across the border.
Tuesday’s air raids came as visiting Egyptian security officials strove to defuse the latest uptick in violence.
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“Fighter jets and [other] aircraft struck underground infrastructures belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” an Israeli military statement said, linking the attack to “explosive and arson balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel”.
Gaza security sources and witnesses said Tuesday’s raids hit Hamas lookout posts at Rafah in the south of the territory and Beit Lahia in the north.
Tensions have been rising for more than a week, with Israel accusing Hamas of firing rockets and launching bundles of balloons across the border fitted with incendiary or explosive devices.
Israel has closed the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing with the Gaza Strip, imposed a ban on fishing off the Gaza coast and staged nightly air raids for seven nights.
The Palestinian territory has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, with Israel citing security threats from Hamas for its land, air and naval blockade.
A Hamas source told AFP news agency that the group held talks with the Egyptian delegation in Gaza on Monday before the delegation left for meetings with the Israelis and the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
It was expected to return to Gaza after those talks, the source added.
“The occupation continued its aggression and carried out air strikes on Gaza after midnight,” the Hamas source said, adding that the attacks were seen as a “negative response” to the truce feelers.
There were no casualties in the raids, he added.
Despite a truce last year – backed by Egypt, Qatar and the UN – tensions between Hamas and Israel rise sporadically.
Hamas says Israel did not honour previous understandings which stipulated that Israel ease the blockade it has imposed on Gaza since Hamas’s takeover and allow for large-scale projects to help rescue the collapsing economy.
The only power plant in Gaza is scheduled to shut down due to the crossing’s closure, which has cut fuel supplies, exacerbated the power crisis and left Gaza’s two million residents with about four hours of electricity a day.