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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egyptian mediators due to arrive in Gaza after week of conflict

Israel has been bombing Gaza for a week [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 August, 2020

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Egyptian mediators are expected to arrive in Gaza to try and calm clashes with Israel that have gone on for one week.

Egyptian mediators were expected in the Gaza Strip on Monday to try and calm tensions after a week of clashes in which Israel has hit the besieged enclave with military strikes.

The strikes happened after Palestinian militants launched airborne incendiary balloons that have ignited wildfires in southern Israel.

Israel has targeted positions of Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, and which it holds responsible for all cross-border attacks from the coastal enclave.

"The Egyptian security delegation will arrive in Gaza today, and will hold a meeting with the Hamas leadership and the leadership of the factions to discuss stopping Israeli aggression," a Hamas source told AFP.

Israeli tanks pounded Hamas targets early on Monday in what has become a daily event. Palestinians have used bunches of balloons to carry rockets and firebombs into southern Israel, and more recently, have clashed with Israeli troops on the border.

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"Tanks targeted a number of military observation posts belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip," an Israeli army statement said in English.

The army said dozens of Palestinians had also "instigated riots along the Gaza Strip security fence" on Sunday evening.

Palestinian security sources in Gaza said that Monday's Israeli tank fire hit Hamas lookout posts in Gaza City, Beit Hanoun in the north of the strip and in Khan Yunis to the south.

They said there were no casualties.

Fishing zone closed

The latest incidents follow a week of heightened tensions, including border clashes, during which Israel has also closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with Gaza and on Sunday shut down Gaza's permitted coastal fishing zone, depriving Palestinians of a key source of livelihood.

A statement from Israeli fire services in the border areas reported 28 outdoor fires Sunday, and farmers said that extensive damage was caused to an avocado orchard.

The same statement said that since August 6, fire-scene investigators had identified 149 blazes in southern Israel caused by incendiary balloons floating across from Gaza.

In a Palestinian protest on Saturday evening "rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it," an Israeli army statement said.

Israel on Sunday again launched air strikes on Hamas, including on what an army statement called "a military compound used to store rocket ammunition".

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank. Israel has imposed a crippling siege on Gaza since 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave after a conflict with rival Palestinian group Fatah.

Palestinian anger has flared further since Israel and the United Arab Emirates last Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move many Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country.

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