Eyewitnesses: Gaza militants launch incendiary balloons into Israel

epa03505507 YEARENDER 2012 NOVEMBER Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on an allegerd Hamas site in the south east of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, 17 November 2012. Israel has put 75,000 reservists on standby amid speculation of an impending ground invasion. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Masked Palestinians late on Sunday launched incendiary balloons from across the Gaza Strip into Israel, setting alight agricultural fields, eyewitnesses said.

A previously unknown group calling itself Wa’ed al-Tahrir, or the Promise of Liberation, claimed responsibility for launching the balloons, which had explosives attached to them.

It said in a leaflet that the balloons were partially intended as revenge for alleged Israeli measures against “innocent women” in the West Bank, Palestinian prisoners and against al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Israel captured Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War, but unilaterally pulled its army out and evacuated its settlements in the strip in 2005.

Israel, however, continues to control Gaza’s borders, along with Egypt. Israel frequently closes crossings in response to rocket fire and other violence along the border.

The last major conflict between Israel and the radical Islamist Hamas movement, which de facto controls the coastal enclave, was in 2014. Since then, violence has flared up from time to time, despite an informal Egyptian-brokered Hamas-Israel truce.

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