Israeli Airstrike Targets 'Leading figure' behind Gaza kites

The Israeli military says its aircraft on Sunday targeted a leading figure behind the launching of balloons and kites into Israel from the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Times of Israel daily said the strike was an attempt to warn off Gazans launching balloons and kites into Israel, which has raised fears of attacks by balloon-borne explosives in the occupied territories.

In a statement, the Israeli military said the airstrike targeted the vehicle of the leader of a cell making explosive kites and balloons. It did not name the person targeted or say if anyone was hit in the airstrike.

The Palestinian Shehab news agency, however, reported that the airstrike had hit an empty vehicle outside a mosque in the Gaza suburb of Shujai'yya early Sunday morning.

The Israeli daily said the strike was likely meant as a warning that Tel Aviv may begin carrying out assassinations from the air, including against figures not actively preparing balloons or kites for launching.

Snipers should shoot and kill the Palestinian protesters who fly burning kites into the occupied territories, an Israeli minister says.

In recent days, Israeli aircraft have fired at protesters near a fence separating the besieged Gaza from the occupied territories in an apparent change of tactic.

So far, Israeli snipers and special troops have shot down nearly 130 peaceful Palestinian protesters, sparking international outcry over the disproportionate use of force.

Israeli officials have tried to put a criminal spin on the protests, claiming that kites and balloons launched by Palestinians had burned thousands of acres of farmland, forests and nature reserves in the regions around the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, the Israeli military carried out a drone strike near residents of the Gaza Strip who were allegedly launching incendiary balloons into Israel. Two people were wounded in the strike, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Hundreds of of Palestinian demonstrators congregated at the fence on Friday in what has become a weekly event since the start of the protests on March 30.

A day earlier, the Gaza Health Ministry said a 21-year-old Palestinian who had been shot by Israeli troops near the Gaza fence the week before had died, bringing to 128 the number of those killed in the protests.
 

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