Palestinian killed in Israeli strike in Gaza
GAZA CITY - A Palestinian was killed in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the enclave's health ministry said, after Israel said one of its aircraft targeted a group launching balloons carrying firebombs.
Three other people were wounded east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the ministry said. A family member said the person killed was working as a border policeman in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
Following the incident, Israel's army said Palestinians launched mortar shells at soldiers near the border fence, causing no injuries.
Israel has pledged a tougher response to Palestinians who have for months sent balloons and kites carrying firebombs over the border fence to burn Israeli farmland.
Israel's fire service says hundreds of fires have caused damage amounting to millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros).
The military has opened fire at or near those launching the devices in recent days, but Thursday would mark the first time someone was killed in such strikes.
"Earlier today, a Hamas terrorist squad was launching arson balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory," a military statement said.
"In response, an IDF aircraft fired towards the squad."
Last weekend saw the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to "militants" in the Gaza Strip in Saturday's strikes, but killed two Palestinian teenagers.
The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.