Israel Strikes in Gaza after Militants Fire Arson Balloons

The new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waves during a joint

The new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett waves during a joint

Israeli fire brigade said balloons from Gaza caused some 20 blazes in open fields in communities near the frontier.

The march posed a test for Israel's fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month's 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

It followed a march by Jewish nationalists in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, which had drawn threats from Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza.

A Hamas spokesperson, confirming the Israeli attacks, said Palestinians would continue to pursue their "brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites" in Jerusalem.

Some chanted "Death to Arabs" before others quieted them.

Hamas's warnings appeared to hinge on whether or not the march would pass through the Damascus Gate and into the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

Medics said 33 Palestinians were wounded and police said two officers were injured and 17 people arrested.

"I got the impression that the police are well-prepared and a great effort is being made to preserve the delicate fabric of life and public security", Bar-Lev said.

Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted ahead of a planned march by Jewish ultranationalists.

A flag-waving procession, led by right-wing activists, is taking place just two days after new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office.

The coalition includes three parties that are headed by politicians who used to be Netanyahu allies, including Bennett.

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The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman later blasted the European Union over the prospect of an import ban on chilled meats. Mr Poots said the time for talking about "Protocol problems has passed", adding it is "now time for action".

Israeli lawmakers on Sunday narrowly approved Bennett's new governing coalition, ousting Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

Tensions are sure to be high whether or not the route is changed.

Tensions between Israeli settlers and Palestinians are again rising which threatens to bring about a new round of clashes, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has warned. While it was diverted from the Damascus Gate at the last minute, it was seen by Palestinians as an unwelcome celebration of Israeli control over what they view as their capital.

An original march was re-routed to avoid the Old City's Muslim Quarter on May 10 when tensions in Jerusalem led Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas to fire rockets towards the holy city, helping set off 11 days of deadly fighting.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move that is not recognized internationally.

The Palestinians claim the city's eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

It urged people to gather in the Old City and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to "rise up in the face of the occupier and resist it by all means to stop its crimes and arrogance".

The so-called balloon unit, Ibna al-Zuwari, announced Monday that it would resume launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices into southern Israel from Tuesday morning.

The Israeli Defence Force said that in response to the "arson balloons", its "fighter jets struck military compounds belonging to the Hamas terror organisation".

Prior to Tuesday's march, Israel beefed up its deployment of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in anticipation of possible rocket attacks from Gaza.

Organisers consulted police on the best route for the march that begins at 1430 GMT to avoid friction with Arab residents, the government said.

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