Israel on Tuesday closed the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after militants in the besieged Palestinian enclave launched incendiary balloons into Israeli territory. "The Kerem Shalom Crossing will be closed, with the exception of the entry of essential humanitarian equipment and fuel," Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement.

The measure is a response to "the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into the territory of the State of Israel", the statement said, adding that the move followed an order by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, reports Xinhua news agency.

Incendiary Devices Attached Ballons

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Israeli Flag Pxfuel

Israel believes that the balloons are sent by militant opposition groups in Gaza but it holds Hamas, the Islamic Movement that runs Gaza, responsible. "The IDF and the state of Israel will respond firmly to any violation of our sovereignty and our citizens," the statement warned.

It added that the balloons "harm the residents of the Gaza Strip, the development of the economy and attempts to improve the civilian situation of its residents". Local Israeli media reported that balloons attached to incendiary devices have caused more than 30 fires around border communities.

Escalating Humanitarian Crisis

Commentators on Palestinian and Israeli media said the balloons often aim to pressure Israel to allow the transfer of Qatari money to Gaza amidst an escalating financial and humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave. Israel and Hamas had fought three rounds of war with occasional bursts of violence between them. Over the past months, both sides kept an unofficial ceasefire.