Israel Bombs Gaza Militants in Response to Fire Balloons

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's military said it bombed militant positions in the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday in response to incendiary balloons launched into southern Israel farmlands a day earlier.

It was the second night in a row that Israel bombed the coastal territory. Tensions between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have intensified in recent weeks.

Tuesday's strikes came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting the country as part of an effort to advance Mideast peace following the historic Aug. 13 announcement of a deal to establish ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The army said in a statement that it bombed “military posts and an underground infrastructure” belonging to the Hamas militant group that rules the Palestinian enclave. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

In recent weeks, Palestinian militants have launched scores of incendiary balloons into southern Israel that have burned large swaths of farmland. The increasing attacks appear aimed at pressuring Israel to ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

Israel has responded to fire balloons and sporadic rocket fire with airstrikes on militant positions and says it holds Hamas accountable for all attacks coming from the territory.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and numerous smaller skirmishes in the past 13 years. Last week Egyptian mediators tried to ease tensions and bolster the informal truce between Israel and Hamas that has largely held since the 2014 war in Gaza.