- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - The Latest on Eid al-Fitr (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

A Palestinian witness says an Israeli drone struck a tent used to prepare kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices for launch into the Jewish state.

Mohammed al-Tayya says the airstrike came after protesters launched several such balloons at Israel Friday, the Eid al-Fitr holiday that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Israel’s military said an aircraft had fired warning shots at Palestinians preparing balloon bombs, and at a nearby vehicle. It said it views the devices with “great severity” and will act against them. Such a device landed in Israel earlier and was detonated by police.

Israel has been battling large fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices or burning rags, launched by Palestinians in Gaza that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife.

Gaza protest organizers said they planned to launch large numbers of kites and balloons with incendiary materials throughout the day at Israel.


2:00 p.m.

Yemenis are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, amid an assault by a Saudi-led coalition to retake the strategic port of Hodeida

Residents say Friday rebel snipers are stationed on rooftops of buildings in Hodeida to counter pro-government advances toward the rebel-held city.

Resident Mahdi Ayesh says people in Hodeida face “difficult times” as they fear fighting will enter their neighborhoods.

“Today’s Eid is not like previous ones. It comes as the three-year-long war rages,” he said.

The U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government began its assault Wednesday on Hodeida, the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of famine.


1:45 p.m.

Israeli police say bomb disposal units have detonated an explosive device attached to a balloon fired from Gaza that floated on to a highway.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it was spotted by civilians Friday, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel has been battling large fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices, or attached to burning rags, launched by Palestinians in Gaza that have damaged forests, burned agricultural fields and killed animals in recent weeks.

In Gaza, organizers of weekly border rallies said they will deploy large numbers of kites and balloons with incendiary materials throughout the day, in hopes they will land in Israel.

A group said it will launch bigger more dangerous balloons after 10 days unless the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, set after the Islamic militant group Hamas took over Gaza, is lifted.


12:05 p.m.

Egyptians are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The holiday comes as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government presses ahead with austerity measures that led to price hikes.

The measures, which have included slashing fuel and electricity subsidies, imposing a value-added tax and a currency flotation, are part an economic reform program linked to a three-year, $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, which Egypt secured in 2016.

The government recently raised fares for Cairo’s subway and the price of tap water and electricity. A new round of fuel subsidy cuts is expected soon.


11: 55 a.m.

More than 90,000 thousand Palestinians have worshipped at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Eid al-Fitr prayers.

The Mufti of Jerusalem criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan in his sermon there.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said Friday, “this is an unfair plan that aims at the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.”

Trump has promised the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and is expected to unveil the plan soon.

Trump’s relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year angered Palestinians who view the move as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. Palestinians say it disqualifies the U.S. as Mideast peace broker.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, sacred home to Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the 1967 war from Jordan.


10:50 a.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has attended Eid al-Fitr prayers at a mosque in Tartous, a town in the coastal region that has remained loyal to the president through seven years of civil war.

The coastal region is home to Syria’s minority Alawite population that has been the core of Assad’s support. Assad, an Alawite, traces his family’s origins to Qardaha, a town in the mountains nearby.

Tens of thousands of men from the coastal region are believed to have been killed fighting for the president since 2011, according to Syrian monitoring groups. The government in Damascus does not publish official figures.

In May, with Assad claiming victory against the last insurgents near the capital, the government discharged soldiers conscripted before the 2011 uprising against Assad’s rule, letting them return to civilian life for the first time in eight years.


10:30 a.m.

Palestinians have performed the traditional morning prayer of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr near Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel, as part of weeks-long protests against a blockade of the territory.

The protests have been led by Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, with turnout driven by despair over blockade-linked hardships.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh joined about 2,000 worshippers Friday in one of the areas near the fence, pledging that protests would continue. More than 120 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire since March.

Haniyeh says the protests have “revived the Palestinian issue” by refocusing world attention. He praised a recent U.N. General Assembly resolution earlier this week that accused Israel of using excessive force against the protesters.


8:45 a.m.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is addressing the nation during Eid al-Fitr prayers.

He praised citizens for showing up at massive rallies last Friday in support of the Palestinians on al-Quds, or Jerusalem Day. That day was initiated by Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Israel.

Says Khamenei: “This year and despite hot weather, people participated in Quds-day rallies more remarkable than previous years.”

President Hassan Rouhani said in an Eid al-Fitr message: “I believe the land of Palestine will be returned to owners of the land with the help by god.”


8:25 a.m.

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is touting a three-day cease-fire with the Taliban in an address to the nation heralding the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

The holiday marks the end of the Ramadan holy month, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

The cease-fire took effect at midnight Friday and lasts through the three-day holiday.

Ghani is using the opportunity to appeal for a lengthier cease-fire and call for the Taliban to come to the negotiating table instead of returning to the battlefield.

The Taliban agreed to the cease-fire but leader Haibaitullah Akhunzada reiterated his demand for talks with the U.S. before sitting down with the Afghan government.

Across Asia, the faithful are celebrating the end of the holy month in Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines.

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