Photo Credit: courtesy, IDF
Airstrike on Hamas-controlled military compound, June 17 2021

The Israeli Air Force carried out a “heavy” wave of air strikes in northern and central Gaza late Thursday night in retaliation for nearly a dozen Hamas-led incendiary balloon attacks on Israeli citizens across the border, Walla! News and Israel’s Channel 13 News outlet reported.

The IDF Spokesperson said in a statement at around midnight Thursday night, “In response to arson balloons launched from Gaza into Israel, we struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas in Gaza.

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“The IDF has increased its readiness for various scenarios and will continue to strike Hamas terror targets in Gaza.”

Shortly after the statement it was reported that IDF units in Jerusalem have been placed on high alert.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Col. Aviv Kochavi also reportedly ordered the IDF to prepare for escalation.

One of the targets hit by the IAF was the Falastin military base in Beit Lahiya. The base was struck with two air-to-surface missiles. The IAF also struck a Hamas site in Khan Younis.

Israeli pilots also bombed a Hamas-controlled civil administration site east of Jabalya, which erupted in flames.

In addition, several missile launch sites in agricultural fields were targeted.

A few minutes before midnight a spokesperson for Hamas, which reportedly placed its personnel on “high alert,” said a statement would be forthcoming shortly. The spokesperson added, “There will be a response.”

A separate source said that “Hamas is afraid to respond because of the money they are going to receive” from Qatar, according to the Abu Saleh blog.

No report yet on casualties.

In the three day period between Tuesday and Thursday, around 48 fires were ignited in southern Israel from the incendiary/explosive balloon attacks, destroying forestland, agricultural fields and fruit orchards. One balloon bomb exploded right over a kindergarten in one of the communities near the border.

Map of Balloon Terror Fires shows the damage done between June 1 and June 17.

A Map of Balloon Terror Fires has been created by Adele Raemer “with the help of her friends and neighbors in the Western Negev” which shows the approximate location of each fire that has broken out as a result of incendiary balloons launched at Israel from Gaza.

A previous map created by Adele covered the terrorist fires that broke out between 2018 and 2020.

According to the current Balloon Terror Fire Map, at least 52 fires have been ignited across the Western Negev by incendiary and explosive balloons from Gaza since June 1.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.