Israel Attacks Gaza, Hamas Deploys Fire Balloons as Conflict Flares After Netanyahu

The Israeli military has confirmed an aircraft attack in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, retaliating against incendiary balloons deployed by Hamas. The attack comes barely two days after the ousting of Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The attack reportedly targeted Hamas armed compounds in response to incendiary balloons that were deployed from the area. The balloons caused 10 fires in fields of southern Israel, Reuters reported.

The attacks were the first to occur following an 11-day ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

Following the balloon attack, Israeli nationalists marched around Damascus Gate, a site of Palestinian life within east Isreal. The crowd of mostly young men held blue-and-white Israeli flags while dancing and singing religious songs, the Associated Press reported. The march also commemorated Israel's capture of east Jerusalem in 1967.

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The Israeli military confirmed that it had called an airstrike on Hamas armed compounds in the Gaza Strip early on June 16, local time. Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty

The march created a challenge for Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, just days after Netanyahu's departure. Bennett now rules over a diverse coalition that only narrowly succeeded in ousting Netanyahu.

While the march on Damascus Gate threatened to raise tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, canceling it would've possibly gained Bennett and his new government coalition criticism for bowing to Hamas's wishes rather than supporting Israeli nationalists.

Palestinians have viewed Israeli celebrations at Damascus Gate as demonstrations of Israeli control over an area that they view as their capital. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the West Bank Palestinian Authority called the march an "aggression against our people," according to the Associated Press.

After the Israeli government approved the march, Hamas issued a statement urging Palestinians to take to the streets and "rise up in the face of the occupier and resist it by all means to stop its crimes and arrogance."

Palestinian official Waleed Assaf said of Bennett's new government, "They talk about it being a government of change, but it's just going to entrench the status quo. Bennett is a copy of Netanyahu, and he might even be more radical."

Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 years, now serves as the opposition leader. He considers Bennett's ascendency and the new government as "illegitimate," according to David Bitan, a lawmaker from Netanyahu's Likud political party.

United Nations (U.N.) Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that officials from the international body have stressed "the need for all sides to refrain from unilateral steps and provocations, for them to exercise restraint and allow for the necessary work to be done to solidify the current cease-fire."

Bennett has said he opposes a Palestinian state and has pushed for expanding Israeli settlements and annexation. His agenda challenges U.S. President Joe Biden's hopes for a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Newsweek contacted the U.S. embassy in Israel for comment.