NEWS

Southern Israel under Arson Attack

August 12, 2020

by: Kate Norman

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Firefighters battling a blaze near the Israel–Gaza border (illustrative)

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 | Dozens of balloons have floated into Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past week. “These balloons look pretty innocent…” the military wrote on its Twitter page with a photo of a colorful cluster of balloons. But these balloons aren’t a miraculous peace gesture. They pack a punch, carrying incendiary devices and explosives as a cheap but effective means to attack the Jewish state.

This is not a new terror tactic. Children in Israel’s south have learned over the past two years that balloons are not safe.

Israelis have seen a resurgence in terror balloons since last Wednesday—burning over 500 acres of land, Ynetnews reported. On Tuesday alone, dozens of balloons were launched that sparked 60 wildfires in the volatile border region.

No casualties have been reported in the fires, but Israeli leaders are nonetheless taking the attacks seriously and have warned that they will hold Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, responsible for the attacks.

In response to the balloon terrorism, the IDF struck several Hamas terror targets overnight, the military announced.

Israel on Monday also closed down the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza—the only commercial crossing. Only fuel, food and products for humanitarian aid will be allowed through to the terror enclave, the Times of Israel reported.

“Hamas allows arson balloons and explosive balloons to be flown into the State of Israel and we are not ready to accept it,” announced Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “We closed the Kerem Shalom crossing as a result. They would do well to stop disturbing the security and peace in Israel. If that does not happen, we will respond.”

That warning was made Tuesday morning—before dozens more balloons were sent into Israel, sparking fires that burned agricultural land and forests, and before IDF helicopters, tanks and fighter jets struck Hamas targets in response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned terrorists in the Strip against further violence. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are the two largest terror organizations operating in the enclave, and both are funded and backed by Iran.

“I would like to make it clear to all of Iran’s proxies, including in Gaza: balloon terrorism will have a heavy price,” Netanyahu declared on Tuesday. “We will not tolerate this. We will take action and exact a heavy price.”

Hamas and the Israeli government have reportedly been negotiating—through mediators like the UN, Egypt and Qatar—a long-term cease-fire, though they clearly have a long way to go. Qatar, an oil state on the Arabian Peninsula, periodically sends millions of dollars to the enclave to keep what little public service they have afloat by providing funds to pay civil servants and financial aid to Gazans.

The current period of funding is set to end next month, and Israeli officials have reportedly urged the wealthy state to continue pouring money into the enclave in an effort to keep Hamas happy and complacent. 

Meanwhile, Israeli land continues to burn, and the locals are struggling to keep the flames under control.

“We’re working around the clock and run around from one fire to another, and we are not always able to keep up,” a local firefighter told Ynetnews.

He added that even though no humans have been harmed in the fires, hundreds of animals have been trapped and burned alive.

“Everything burns and it breaks our hearts,” firefighter Hagai Avni continued.

“The Gaza Strip disrupts our lives.”

Posted on August 12, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 12, 2020)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com