by: Matan Tzuri, Elior Levy
Tuesday, 9 October 2018 | The residents of kibbutz Kerem Shalom have expressed their anger and frustration amid the continuous launching of incendiary kites and balloons into the Gaza border communities and the burning of tires during the weekly “March of Return” riots on the Gaza border fence.
More than 2,000 fires have broken out during the past six months, consuming thousands of dunams [acres] of farmland and natural groves.
Throughout Friday, at least seven fires erupted in the Gaza border communities as a result of incendiary balloons flown into Israel from the Strip. Firefighter teams gained control over the fires.
An average of 20 fires sparked per day as the kites and balloons terrorism began. Several months later, an average of 10 fires broke out each day, and currently the figures show some 12 conflagrations erupt daily.
Meanwhile, as the negotiation talks to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas reached a dead end, the Gaza border fence riots turned much more violent.
Some 20,000 protesters gathered Friday along the Gaza border fence to take part in the weekly border clashes, burning tires and hurling explosive devices at IDF [Israel Defense Forces] troops.
Kibbutz Kerem Shalom was covered with a cloud of thick smoke as a result of the tire burning.
Firefighting teams operating at the scene used super-sized fans in an attempt to prevent the smoke from penetrating the kibbutz.
Gaza division commander Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs arrived to the community to encourage its residents. However, they lashed out at him, saying, “The situation here is intolerable.”
“The Palestinian protest is dictating our lives. We are living in a black suffocating cloud of smoke and tear gas,” they vented.
“We don’t intend to contain this situation, which disrupts our lives,” the Kerem Shalom residents exclaimed.
“We are strong and determined to stay here and raise our children, even under challenging conditions,” one asserted.
Earlier, Yair Farjun, head of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, sent a letter to the Kerem Shalom residents regarding a possible escalation on the border fence.
“We are all aware of the option of a military escalation. The decision to increase the IDF deployment as well as Iron Dome batteries stress the concern of escalation. The IDF adopted a protocol according to which it faces security challenges and its activity is daily.
“The Ashkelon Regional Council is closely monitoring any security developments, and I’m in constant contact with the IDF and the security forces,” Farjun wrote.
“The instructions are to maintain routine procedure. The security coordinators and the emergency teams are informed, and are prepared to assist the Gaza border communities, its residents and all those seeking their help,” he concluded.
During the weekend’s border fence skirmishes, rioters set alight tires and threw explosive devices at IDF troops, who responded with riot control measures, which for the first time included the use of sponge-tipped bullets.
However, this week’s protests were less violent than those taking place during the past few weeks.
The Hamas terror organization said, “The response to the Israeli threats against the ‘March of Return’ campaign…was the mass participation in the protests,” adding that “those who participated decided that nothing would stop them from marching until their goals are achieved.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry said three demonstrators aged 12, 24, and 28 were killed during the riots, and 126 were wounded.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement that in response to “grenades and explosive devices” hurled at troops during the protests, an IAF [Israeli Air Force] aircraft carried out two airstrikes on Hamas terror posts in the Strip. The statement added that some protesters crossed the fence to throw grenades on Israeli territory before returning to the Strip. No Israeli casualties were reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the situation on the southern border during Friday’s meeting with German federal minister for foreign affairs Heiko Maas.
“Israel would take strong action against Gaza for every action against Israel and the residents of the south,” he stressed.
In addition, the newly elected leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nakhala, spoke publicly for the first time since his official appointment a week ago, warning the Gaza border communities’ residents.
“Death is life for our people and life for our children, and capitulation is our death. The Israeli aggression against the ‘March of Return’ campaign and the killing of our people must stop,” he stated.
“The resistance must take responsibility for this. It has the ability to turn the Gaza border region and its settlements into a place that is not life worthy,” Nakhala threatened.
“We say to (Palestinian president) Mahmoud Abbas: our people’s historical enemy doesn’t understand words of peace and compromise, but of war and sanctions,” Nakhala said, addressing Abbas.
“We’ve recently worked to strengthen our relations with all parties, especially with Hamas,” he added.
Prior to the demonstrations, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman conveyed a message to Hamas leaders.
“We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border,” Lieberman tweeted. “But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: ‘Take that into account.'”
Lieberman thanked the IDF troops for their hard work defending the border fence, wishing them “Shabbat Shalom.”
The defense minister held security consultations on Thursday with the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) and other senior defense officials to discuss the situation in Gaza.
For the past eight months, fires sparked by incendiary balloons and kites have ravaged the south of Israel. With Hamas terrorists showing no signs of letting up, the situation is dire—and growing worse by the day. With every balloon or kite that strikes its target, more land is torched. The residents of southern Israel are resilient; determined to weather this new form of terror. However, they need our help to do so.
Bridges for Peace recently donated the funds required to purchase two lightweight firefighting trailers for the Eshkol region, which shares the largest strip of border with Gaza and is the hardest hit by this arson terrorism. The security chief of the Eshkol region cried when he heard the news.
While our help is certainly appreciated, the communities’ needs are much greater than our current ability to respond. That is why we appeal to Christians to donate to our Crisis Assistance Fund so that we can help Israel fight the kite terror, quench the blazes and restore what has been destroyed.
Posted on October 9, 2018
Photo Credit: Screenshot/Youtube/Jewish National Fund
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