New hostilities between Israel and Hamas erupted after Gaza militants sent arson balloons into southern Israel and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) carried out airstrikes at Hamas compounds in the the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday.
The renewed clashes come just hours after the new Israeli government came into power after unseating long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Arson Balloons Cause Fires
While the IDF said incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused widespread fires in parts of southern Israel, WAFA, Palestine's official news agency, said Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis and another site south of Gaza city caused "material" damage but no casualties.
The JPost said some 20 different fires were sparked by the arson balloons launched from Gaza. The outlet also said the IDF struck a number of military sites belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel's new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett had earlier warned that arson balloons launched into Israeli territories would be treated like rockets fired by Hamas and retaliated sternly.
"The IDF is prepared for all scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities, in the face of continued terrorist acts from the Gaza Strip," the army's spokesperson said in a statement.
The launch of incendiary balloons happened in the aftermath of the flag march undertaken by right wing Jewish groups in eastern Jerusalem. Clashes broke out between the Jewish groups and Palestinian protesters in the aftermath of the march on Tuesday.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had called on residents of East Jerusalem to protest against the controversial flag march by showing up in numbers.
According to the JPost, Israeli authorities the path of the flag march as well as the civilian flight paths in the backdrop of the flag march. Tel Aviv also intensified the deployment of the Iron Dome air defense system, anticipating rocket fire from Gaza.
This move was apparently celebrated by the Hamas, which said the Jewish state has been forced to accept 'new rules of engagement'.
"The courageous stances of the Palestinian resistance, and its decisive decisions that forced the Israeli occupation to change the path of the so-called march of flags away from the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, change the path of civil aviation, and intensify the deployment of the Iron Dome, confirm the achievement of the deterrence equation it imposed in the Battle of Saif al-Quds, and its success in imposing new rules of engagement on the enemy," Hamas said.
"The valiant resistance will remain the protective shield for our people, and the behavior of the Israeli occupation on the ground will determine the course and nature of dealing with it," it added.