Israel on Thursday said it will stop shipments of fuel into Gaza in response to Palestinians in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched tracts of farmland on the Israeli frontier.
Militants in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza in recent days have launched dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material in a bid to pressure Israel to push for Qatar to continue its financial aid program for the Strip. On Wednesday, 24 fires broke out in Israeli communities bordering Gaza as a result of the attacks.
Israel, which cites security threats from Hamas for its land and naval blockade, had earlier retaliated by striking several Hamas military facilities with warplanes, attack helicopters and tanks.
The army said among the sites targeted were military compound of Hamas' naval force, underground infrastructure and observation posts.
"The IDF takes all terrorist activity against Israel very seriously and will continue to act against attempts to harm Israeli citizens," said the IDF in a statement. "The terrorist organization Hamas bears responsibility for what is happening inside and outside the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences."
Escalating the measures on Thursday morning, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered a halt to fuel imports into Gaza "in light of the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip" towards Israel, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the measure a "grave act of aggression" that "aims to worsen the crisis of our people in the blockaded Strip". The Mediterranean coastal enclave relies on Israel for most of its fuel and gas.
A ceasefire deal brokered last year by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations following a deadly surge in violence was to see Israel allow new development projects, including an industrial zone and a hospital. Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with those understandings.
On Wednesday, Israel reduced the area where it permits Palestinians to fish from 15 miles (24 km) to eight miles (13 km), calling it a response to the balloon launches.