The Israeli military warned Gazans against sending firebomb-bearing kites over the border Thursday, after a slew of incidents in which airborne combustibles launched from the coastal enclave managed to set Israeli fields ablaze.
The warning, in a tweet from IDF Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee, came as both sides braced for fresh demonstrations and clashes expected Friday as part of a weekly series of protests.
Adraee tweeted to his 171,000 followers that the Israel Defense Forces would not tolerate the burning kites which have destroyed acres of fields and crops.
“The arson phenomenon is not hidden from our eyes, and we are taking it very seriously.” he tweeted in Arabic “Attack kites are not a kids game and we don’t see it that way.”
In a subsequent tweet, he advised Gazans to stop being used by their leaders from the Hamas terror group who were trying “to drag you into a cycle of terror.”
He said that the army held Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Strip, responsible for all attacks.
“I advise you to stop working for Hamas and start working for yourselves to solve your own problems,” he tweeted.
For the past several weeks, Gazans have been regularly flying kites outfitted with containers of burning fuel, often including charcoal and bags of sugar to ensure a long, slow burn.
The tactic was introduced as part of the “March of Return” demonstrations at the border fence, which began on March 30 and are due to continue through mid-May.
The mass protests, which have been taking place every Friday, are being encouraged by Hamas, whose leaders say their goal is the erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”
With the number of firebomb kite launches now reaching as many as 15 per day, military planners have begun to consider new measures to end the practice.
According to Hadashot TV news and Channel 10, the army is now considering retaliating for kite launches with airstrikes against Hamas infrastructure, as it does each time a rocket is launched from Gaza toward Israel.
It is also considering deploying special ground-based snipers and airborne drones capable of destroying the kites in the air — and, Hadashot said, of targeting those on the ground in Gaza launching the kites.
Lacking the means and official orders to do more to prevent the arson-by-kite attacks, IDF soldiers have reacted mostly by tracking kites heading over the border and alerting firefighters to reach their landing areas.
The tactic, in which a Molotov cocktail is attached to a kite and sent flying over the border into Israel, caused its largest blaze yet on Wednesday, with one fire consuming dozens of acres of grasslands and agricultural fields and burning for six hours near Kibbutz Be’eri despite the best efforts of 10 firefighting teams.
— חדשות עשר (@news10) May 2, 2018
The blazes have been aided by hot and dry weather conditions, which are expected to persist through Friday.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.