Israel will close its goods crossing with the Gaza Strip, authorities said Monday, after militants in the Hamas-run territory fired rockets into the Mediterranean and launched incendiary balloons towards the Jewish state, which started dozens of fires.
The Kerem Shalom border crossing will be closed to all traffic except humanitarian aid and fuel from Tuesday, COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees the crossings, said in a statement.
The move comes in response to the "continued launching of incendiary balloons" from Gaza, it added. Israeli officials said late Monday that several balloons had landed in areas of southern Israel bordering Gaza and started at least 30 fires. Explosives tied to balloons and kites first emerged as a weapon in Gaza during intense protests in 2018, when the devices drifted across the border daily, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities. Over the past week, the militants had resumed the practice, each time triggering retaliatory strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza.
Hamas also fired several rockets into the sea on Monday after repeated exchanges of fire with Israel in recent days, Palestinian security sources and eyewitnesses said. The rockets were a "message" to Israel to let it know that armed groups in Gaza will not "remain silent" in the face of an Israeli "aggression", a source close to Hamas said.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. Despite a truce last year, backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons. Palestinian analysts say fire from Gaza often aims to pressure Israel to convince Qatar to transfer more financial aid into the Strip.