10 families said to be leaving Gaza border communities amid repeated violence

10 families said to be leaving Gaza border communities amid repeated violence

Move sparks fears of a mass exodus from areas regularly threatened by terrorist rocket fire and incendiary balloons

A security barrier is set up around a crater caused by a rocket strike on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border, May 5, 2019. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP)
A security barrier is set up around a crater caused by a rocket strike on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border, May 5, 2019. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP)

At least 10 families living in Gaza border communities have announced their intentions to leave the area following repeated rounds of conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, Channel 13 reported Friday.

The families arrived just over a year ago and informed the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council that they intend to leave due to the security situation.

The move has sparked fears it could be a prelude to a mass exodus from the area, the report said.

Recent years have seen repeated rounds of fighting in the area, most recently in early May when terror groups fired nearly 700 rockets into Israel, many of them at Gaza border communities. Residents were forced to spend days in the safety of bomb shelters.

The last year has also seen terrorists sending hundreds of arson balloons into Israel, sparking large blazes in nearby fields and nature reserves.

Earlier Friday, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi held his first meeting with the heads of the Gaza border communities, telling them that an unofficial deal with Gaza terrorists for calm along the border was proving effective. He also appeared to warn that the army would not let Palestinians launch arson balloons into Israel indefinitely.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (2nd from right) meets with local leaders near the Gaza border on June 7, 2019 (IDF Spokesman)

Kohavi said there had been a decrease in the number of incendiary devices flown into Israel and violence along the border fence had calmed significantly from earlier this year, when clashes between protesting Palestinians and Israeli troops had been a near-daily occurrence.

“The decrease… is not coincidental,” he said, according to Hebrew media reports. “Right now, we prefer to give the arrangement a chance.”

Kohavi’s comments appeared to confirm the existence of a ceasefire deal with Hamas and other Gaza based terror groups to ease conditions in the Strip in exchange for calm along the border, reached in the wake of the clashes on May 4 and 5.

Israel has refused to officially acknowledge the ceasefire deal, despite moves being made to ease conditions in Gaza.

Hamas, the de facto ruler in the Strip, and the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad terror group had both confirmed the internationally brokered deal.

As part of the reported agreement Israel agreed to extend the allowable fishing zone off the coast of Gaza and approved Qatari funds of millions of dollars into the enclave, aimed at helping ease the dire humanitarian situation there, among other moves.

But Kohavi also told the local leaders that “we cannot let the balloon terror continue.”

Illustrative: An Israeli farmer uses a tractor in an attempt to extinguish a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza Strip, on May 15, 2019 after it was caused by inflammable material attached to helium balloon flown by Palestinian protesters from across the border (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Over the last several weeks, Israel has responded to the balloons by reducing the allowable fishing zone off the Gaza coast for several days at a time.

On Thursday, Israel reduced the fishing zone off the Gaza from 15 nautical miles back to 10 miles, a day after bringing it back up to 15 miles.

The move was apparently in response to four incendiary balloons from the coastal enclave that caused small fires in southern Israel on Tuesday.

No arson balloons landed in Israel on Wednesday or Thursday, Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Eli Cohen said.

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