- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Israeli military late Tuesday launched an air assault against Hamas compounds in Gaza in the first violence since the two sides struck a fragile ceasefire last month.

The Israeli strikes on Hamas came after the Palestinian terrorist group — which is partially financed by Iran — reportedly sent incendiary balloons into southern Israel. Those balloons sparked at least 10 fires in Israeli communities near the border with Gaza.

The details of the Israeli attack weren’t immediately clear, but the Israeli army said in a statement that it is “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza,” Reuters news agency reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza.

The renewed fighting comes at a pivotal moment in Israel, as new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took over just days ago after the ouster of the country’s longtime leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The latest clashes also come immediately on the heels of a major march in east Jerusalem on Tuesday during which some Jewish marchers reportedly chanted “Death to Arabs.”

Top Israeli officials condemned that rhetoric. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, for example, said on Twitter such comments were “a disgrace to the Israeli people.”

“The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable,” he said.

Some Palestinians took great offense to the march and Hamas reportedly urged its followers to “resist” the event. It appears that the launch of incendiary rockets came in direct response to the march.

The clashes are the first since a major Israeli military campaign against Hamas in Gaza last month, which came in direct response to the terrorist group launching a series of rocket attacks against Israeli cities.

The two sides eventually struck a ceasefire after 11 days of war amid pressure from the U.S., Egypt and other nations.

Authorities in Gaza claim that more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the fighting while Israel said at least 12 of its citizens were killed by Hamas rocket fire.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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