Israel Air Force responds to the launching of explosive balloons on Israel after some 8,000 Palestinians gathered along the Gaza border fence with Israel while under the cover of thick toxic smoke from burning hundreds of tires the rioters hurled stones, explosives devices and grenades at troops stationed along the fence.
IDF aircraft struck multiple Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip in response to the launching of explosive balloons towards Israel Saturday night.
Thousands of Gazans have been violently demonstrating along the security fence with Israel demanding an end to the 12-year long blockade every week for the past 11 months.
Three Palestinians, including a medic and a journalist were injured on Friday during the protests.
According to the IDF some 8,000 Palestinians gathered at several points along the fence, burning tires, hurling stones, explosives devices and grenades at troops stationed along the fence. Demonstrators also burnt tires and launched incendiary balloons towards several locations.
IDF troops responded with riot-control means.
Palestinians in the Hamas-run coastal enclave have been launching explosive balloons and other explosive aerial devices as part of The Great Return March protests which began on March 30th, leading to 2,000 separate fires resulting in over 35,000 dunams (approximately 8,500 acres) being burnt.
According to the IDF, this has included over 13,000 dunams (approximately 3,200 acres) of nature reserves, and over 11,000 dunams (approximately 2,700 acres) of forestry.
On Wednesday a civilian home was damaged after an explosive device tied to several balloons detonated in the air outside of it in the Eshkol regional council. The explosion shattered one window and damaged the shutters on another, authorities said.
The IDF also accused Hamas of “allocating explosive materials and other military means” and distributed them to protesters to sabotage security infrastructure. Gazans have also been cutting through the fence, infiltrating into southern Israel.
Approximately 70,000 Israelis reside in the area of southern Israel next to the Gaza Strip, and according to the military, the primary threat posed by the events along the border is the threat of abductions of killings of Israeli civilians as well as harm to residential and commercial infrastructure.
In addition 1,300 rockets and missiles have been fired from the Strip since the beginning of the demonstrations, with “most” being launched on Friday or Saturday “immediately after mass violent riots.”
On Thursday the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) released a report claiming that IDF soldiers intentionally fired on civilians and could have committed crimes against humanity during the response to the demonstrations.
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry “has found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said its chair Santiago Canton in Geneva, Switzerland.
“These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution, and we call on Israel to conduct meaningful investigations into these serious violations and to provide timely justice for those killed and injured,” he said.
Last month a report by Medicine Sans Frontier found that a total of 6,174 Palestinians have been injured by live bullets fired by IDF troops over the past 10 months since the beginning of the riots.
The IDF military intelligence assessment for 2019 has warned that a continued deterioration of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure will continue to put pressure on Hamas which could lead to another violent clash with Israel, despite both sides not being interested in another war.
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