The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out strikes against several Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip late on Wednesday, August 12, as balloon attacks against Israeli border communities continue. The IDF strikes were carried out by the planes, helicopters, and tanks, and reportedly targeted Hamas naval facilities, underground infrastructure, and observation posts throughout the enclave. Incendiary devices attached to balloons have started over 80 fires in southern Israel over recent days, with 24 fires reported in Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol Regional Councils on Wednesday. Wednesday's retaliatory attacks marked the third consecutive night of Israeli strikes in Gaza, which have increased in severity as balloon attacks continue. No casualties have been reported on either side.
Following the strikes, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz announced that shipments of fuel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which was closed on Tuesday, August 11, to all traffic other than food and humanitarian shipments, would be halted. Additionally, Israeli authorities announced earlier on Wednesday that Gaza's fishing zone would be halved to within 15 km (9 miles) from shore.
Continued attacks on Israeli border communities are likely in the near term, with Israeli strikes to be expected in retaliation. Further escalation of the situation cannot be ruled out.
The clashes come amidst a period of rising tension between Hamas and Israel, as negotiations between the two sides have allegedly stalled. On Saturday, August 8, a Hamas official reportedly stated that the group would resume their balloon bomb campaign in order to exercise pressure on the Israeli government, and threatened rocket fire into Israel should the situation continue. Israeli authorities have warned that further attacks would draw an increasingly harsh response.
Those in the Gaza Strip and areas of Israel bordering the territory are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. Some Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to the Gaza Strip.
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