The unrest provided the first test of the ceasefire at a time when Egyptian mediators have been working to reach a longer-term agreement.

Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16, 2021.
Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on June 16, 2021. (AFP)

Palestinians in Gaza reportedly launched more incendiary balloons, hours after Israeli air strikes and similar cross-border fire attacks, with Egypt scrambling to keep a fragile ceasefire amid the first flare-up since hundreds were killed in last month's aggression on the enclave.

The air strikes on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza were the first under Israel's new government headed by Naftali Bennett, whose ideologically disparate coalition on Sunday ousted long-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A fire department spokesman told that teams were tackling "four fires started by balloons launched on Wednesday afternoon from the Gaza city", marking a second consecutive day of such fires.

Tensions also rose again in the occupied West Bank, where the Israeli army said they shot a Palestinian woman dead, alleging she had attempted to ram soldiers with a car and then stab them.

Renewed Israeli aggression

The renewed violence came a day after Jewish ultranationalist demonstrators poured into Jerusalem's flashpoint Old City, where Israeli forces confronted several protesting Palestinians, roughing them up or detaining them ahead of the controversial march.

The air strikes marked the first major flare-up between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza since a ceasefire on May 21 ended 11 days of war that killed more than 250 Palestinians, according to Gaza authorities, and 13 people in Israel, the police and army there said.

The Israeli military said that in response to “arson balloons” sent into Israel on Tuesday, its “fighter jets struck military compounds" belonging to Hamas early on Wednesday.

There was no indication of any casualties.

Israel's military added that it was "prepared for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities," in the event of further attacks from Gaza.

The violence is the first between Israel and Hamas since a ceasefire took effect on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting that killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, according to Gaza authorities.

In Israel, 13 people were killed in last month's conflict, including a soldier, by rockets and missiles fired from Gaza, the police and army said.

Bennett on Wednesday met army chief Aviv Kochavi, and the two discussed "the lessons to be learnt from the operation in the Gaza Strip" in May, according to a statement by the premier's office.

Egyptian efforts towards ceasefire

An Egyptian security official said his government has been in “direct and around-the-clock” contacts with Israeli officials and the Gaza rulers to keep the cease-fire and to urge them to refrain from provocative acts.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomacy, said the US administration has also been in touch with Israel as part of the efforts.

The two sides seem to agree "not to escalate to the tipping point,” he said. “And we do every effort to prevent this.”

Palestinian woman's family says she was not an attacker

The family of a woman shot by Israeli soldiers in Hizma for allegedly trying to ram her car into them on Wednesday, says she was on the route by accident.

Official Palestinian news website Wafa identified the woman as Mai Afana, 29, from the town of Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem.

Her uncle Hani Afana told AFP that the family rejected the claim that the young mother had tried to kill Israeli soldiers. She "took this road by mistake," and "did not attempt to carry out an attack," he said.

The previous day saw more than a thousand Israelis bearing their national flag take to the streets of east Jerusalem in a delayed and controversial march by nationalist and far-right activists.

Both the United Nations and the United States had called for restraint before the march, which Bennett's new government authorised.

READ MORE: Palestinian teen in West Bank shot dead by Israeli forces

March seen as 'provocation' 

The so-called March of the Flags celebrates the anniversary of the city's "reunification" after Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed it, a move not recognised by most of the international community.

With tensions high, Israeli police were deployed in numbers for the delayed march, blocking roads and firing stun grenades and foam-tipped bullets to disperse Palestinians from the route.

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

The march triggered protests in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and prompted rebukes and warnings from Israel's allies.

Throngs of mostly young Jewish men sang, danced and waved flags at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, which was cleared of its usual Palestinian crowds.

Some chanted "Death to Arabs" before others persuaded them to stop.

Yair Lapid, the centrist architect of the new government, tweeted that he believed the march had to be allowed, but that "it's inconceivable how you can hold an Israeli flag and shout, 'Death to Arabs' at the same time."

Palestinians in Israel – descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land when the state of Israel was created in 1948 – make up around 20 percent of the Israeli population.

Mansour Abbas, whose conservative party Raam is vital to the new coalition, called Tuesday's march a "provocation" that should have been cancelled.

READ MORE: Israel launches air strikes on besieged Gaza

Source: TRTWorld and agencies