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Israel launches airstrikes at Gaza Strip after militants fire arson balloons

Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16. AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s military said it launched airstrikes at the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, in response to incendiary balloons fired by militants in the Palestinian territory.

The exchange marked the first major flare-up between Israel and Gaza since a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of devastating hostilities between the two.

Israel says Hamas launched ‘incendiary balloons.’ AFP via Getty Images

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said that its warplanes had attacked Hamas armed compounds early on Wednesday local time.

The country’s military said that it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.”

Earlier on Tuesday, militants launched arson balloons from Gaza, sparking at least 10 fires in southern Israel, according to local reports.

Palestinian militants launching arson balloons into Israel on June 15, 2021. Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

The attacks followed a march in East Jerusalem that drew hundreds of Israeli ultra-nationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs.”

The march, meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in 1967, was considered to be a provocation by Hamas, which called on Palestinians to “resist” the parade.