Airborne explosive device from Gaza damages home in southern Israel
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Airborne explosive device from Gaza damages home in southern Israel

Blast breaks window in Eshkol region; attack comes amid return of nightly riots along Strip’s security fence

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Home in the Eshkol Regional Council damaged by an explosive device from Gaza on February 27, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)
Home in the Eshkol Regional Council damaged by an explosive device from Gaza on February 27, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)

An explosive device flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip detonated outside a home in the Eshkol region, causing damage but no injuries on Wednesday night, officials said.

The small bomb had been attached to a cluster of balloons and launched toward Israel from the coastal enclave on Wednesday as part of nightly riots along the Gaza border.

“A string of balloons carrying an explosive object was spotted traveling from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The object apparently exploded in midair and caused damage to a house in a nearby community,” the army said.

The explosive shattered one window and damaged the shutters on another, according to the Eshkol Regional Council.

The military sent troops to the scene to inspect the damage and investigate the incident. Police sappers were also called in to ensure there were no other threats and remove any remaining explosive material.

The incident appeared to be the first time damage was caused to a home or building from an incendiary or explosive device attached to balloons or kites this year.

Damage caused to a home in the Eshkol region by an explosive device flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip by a balloon on February 27, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)

Since March 2018, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched thousands of balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices into Israel, causing wildfires in nearby agricultural fields, forests and nature reserves.

These arson and bombing attacks largely stopped at the end of last year, in light of a de facto ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, but they returned earlier this month as this understanding began to fray.

“These explosive and incendiary balloons are terror in every way and this evening, we are dealing with an intensification of this terror,” Eshkol Mayor Gadi Yarkoni said in a statement.

“Residents of Eshkol have shown exemplary spirit and allowed policymakers and the military to find the ways to root out this terrorism from our communities. We will not accept this reality and we expect an immediate solution that will ensure long-term calm,” Yarkoni said.

Last Tuesday saw the first brush fire in southern Israel sparked by incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip in months. The blaze burned grasslands in a wooded area outside the community of Kibbutz Kissufim in the Eshkol region. In addition, a helium-filled condom with a suspected explosive device attached to it was found outside another community in the Eshkol region.

Grasslands burned in a fire sparked by a balloon carrying an incendiary device from Gaza, February 19, 2019 (Fire and Rescue Services)

Wednesday night’s balloon attacks came as hundreds of Palestinians took part in riots along the border of the Gaza Strip near the city of Beit Hanoun.

Demonstrators burned tires, threw rocks and explosives at soldiers and attacked the security fence.

The IDF believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an undiscovered tunnel, or a similar psychologically significant attack.

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, ordered the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, troops wrapped up a surprise drill simulating war with the Strip.

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