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Israel, Hamas trade fire amid flare-up in Gaza tensions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza Strip on August 28, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The Israeli military has carried out airstrikes and artillery attacks on various sites across the besieged Gaza Strip over what it cited as a volley of rockets launched from the Palestinian enclave into occupied territories.

The military said in a statement that underground infrastructure and military positions belonging to Hamas resistance movement were targeted in strikes by Israeli tanks and military aircraft on Friday morning, after resistance fighters in the besieged enclave fired six rockets at southern Israel overnight.

The statement added that the projectiles triggered sirens in the Nahal Oz and Alumim settlements, east of the northern Gaza Strip, sending hundreds of residents settlers to bomb shelters.  

An unnamed Israeli military spokesman said he did not have any information on where the Gaza rockets landed, but that none of them were intercepted by Iron Dome missile system.

The rockets came shortly after the Israeli military initially bombed Hamas facilities in Gaza over alleged launch of incendiary and explosive balloons into occupied lands throughout Thursday.

There have been no immediate reports on possible damage or casualties in the attacks.

Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip almost nightly for the past two weeks, saying it would not tolerate the balloons coming from the enclave.

Mediators from the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar have been working to restore calm. Qatari envoy Mohammad al-Emadi has been in Gaza since Tuesday, holding talks with Hamas leaders.

Israel on August 11 closed Kerem Shalom crossing – the main crossing into the Gaza Strip, citing the launch of incendiary balloons from the besieged enclave as the cause.

Israeli authorities slashed Gaza’s permitted fishing zone the next day, halving the area from 15 nautical miles to eight. 

The Tel Aviv regime also halted fuel imports into the coastal strip, leading to its only power plant shutting down last week.

Palestinian health officials have voiced serious concern that the power plant shutdown could aggravate a novel coronavirus outbreak in Gaza Strip, which is home to two million Palestinians.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, after Hamas, which has vowed to resist Israeli occupation, rose to power in the enclave.

Since imposing the siege, Israel has has also waged three wholesale wars against Gaza, killing thousands of Palestinians in each.

The crippling blockade has caused a sharp decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the strip.

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