A Palestinian was killed in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip, the enclave’s health ministry said, after Israel said one of its aircraft targeted a group launching balloons carrying firebombs.
Three other people were wounded east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the ministry said on Thursday, July 19. A family member said the person killed was working as a border policeman in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
Israel has pledged a tougher response to Palestinians who have for months sent balloons and kites carrying firebombs over the border fence to burn Israeli farmland.
Israel’s fire service says hundreds of fires have caused damage amounting to millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars).
The military has opened fire at or near those launching the devices in recent days, but Thursday would mark the first time someone was killed in such strikes.
“Earlier today, a Hamas terrorist squad was launching arson balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” the IDF spokesperson said.
“In response, an IDF aircraft fired towards the squad.”
Later, the IDF said mortar shells were launched at its forces “engaged in operational activity near the fence in the southern Gaza Strip.”
Last weekend saw the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip in Saturday’s strikes, killing two Palestinian teenagers.
The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.
With reporting from AFP