by: Matan Tzuri, Yoav Zitun, Ilana Curiel
Thursday, 13 August 2020 | Over 20 fires broke out on Wednesday in Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip, due to incendiary balloons sent into Israel from the Hamas-controlled enclave for the seventh day in a row.
The resumption of the practice by the militants in recent weeks appears to be in retaliation to Qatar’s refusal to continue its financial aid program to Gaza and as a tool to put pressure on Israel to push for more funding for the Strip.
As a result of the attacks, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered to reduce the fishing area off the coast of Gaza from 15 to 8 nautical miles [27 to 15 km] starting Wednesday until further notice.
“The decision was made in the face of repeated terror acts, emanating from the Gaza Strip, against Israeli citizens in recent days,” Gantz said in a statement. “Hamas is responsible for everything that happens inside…the Gaza Strip and it will bear the consequences.”
The decision to reduce the fishing zone comes following consultation with IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. On Tuesday, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing to all traffic except humanitarian aid and fuel.
According to the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, the fires were extinguished with cooperation from the Nature and Parks Authority, the KKL–Jewish National Fund and the IDF forces.
In addition, the defense system meant to intercept small objects such as balloons was deployed for operational use for the first time, after reaching a 90% success rate during trials.
While the system has proven reliable, it is located in one specific location of the Gaza border region and is unable to provide cover to the entire area bordering the Strip.
“We are once again appealing to the public,” said the police in a statement, “if there is anything that raises suspicion, contact the police by dialing 100 immediately.”
In the last 72 hours, there have been 45 fires in the KKL–JNF forests in the south, scorching about 850 dunams [210 acres] of land. In Kibbutz Or HaNer near Sderot, about 2,000 dunams [494 acres] caught fire. And in municipality of Netiv HaAsara, approximately 350 dunams [86 acres] were burned.
Since last week, fires have consumed close to 2,000 acres [8,093 dunams] of forest, trees and agricultural fields. No casualties were reported.
“It is the right of the Palestinian people to live with dignity on their land and to fight in order to lift the siege that has been imposed on them for the past 14 years,” said Hamas in a statement. “Israeli pressure and threats will not break our willingness to lift the siege.”
Posted on August 13, 2020
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