'What does the wind bring with it?'

As Gaza balloons bring bombs to Israel, IDF pens poem teaching kids to keep away

‘Sometimes, the wind brings with it dangerous things’: Home Front Command warns children to call an adult even if they see ‘a ball, a book or a balloon’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An explosives-laden soccer ball that was apparently flown from the Gaza Strip using balloons is seen in an open area of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council on January 23, 2019. (Courtesy)
An explosives-laden soccer ball that was apparently flown from the Gaza Strip using balloons is seen in an open area of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council on January 23, 2019. (Courtesy)

The Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command on Friday released a poem for children warning them against the dangers of the balloon-borne bombs flown into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Titled “What does the wind bring with it?”, the poem tells children to call an adult and run away if they see a suspicious object.

“Sometimes, the wind brings with it/dangerous things/which come from over the fence/they are not mine/and they’re not some friend’s,” wrote the poem’s author, Lt. Col. (res.) Tali Versano-Eisman, the head of the Home Front Command’s child-outreach department.

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip began flying explosive and incendiary devices into Israel using clusters of balloons and kites beginning in 2018. The practice has waxed and waned over that time, but has picked up considerably in recent weeks, with dozens of these balloon-borne bombs landing in towns and farming communities adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

Throughout the day on Friday, at least five of these devices landed in southern Israel, with one of them shutting down a highway in the area until police sappers could remove the object.

In addition to being attached to colorful balloons, some of these explosive devices have also been disguised as other child-friendly objects like books and soccer balls.

“A ball, a book or a balloon, they can be an explosive,” Versano-Eisman wrote.

A Hebrew poem released by the IDF Home Front Command warning children to keep away from suspicious objects as they may be explosives on February 7, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Few injuries have been caused by these airborne attacks, but they have caused extensive damage to Israeli agricultural fields, parks and forests especially during the country’s dry summer months.

The Israeli military and defense industries have attempted to develop technological tools to counter these balloons, but these have so far met only limited success.

The IDF has also at times directly targeted the terrorists launching these devices, but this has also failed to halt the practice completely.

On Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said the military would take a tougher stand against these airborne attacks, along with other types of terrorist activities.

“We have no intention to let terror win. The directive in the field is very clear, clear down to the last soldier — to thwart and prevent every [terrorist] activity,” Kohavi told senior officers.

“When I say terror, I also mean the rocks, the Molotov cocktails, the explosive balloons, all of these are terror,” he said.

The military and police have called on the public to alert authorities to any suspicious-looking objects and refrain from approaching them.

Recent weeks have seen a marked increase in the launching of these balloon-borne explosive device, with many being sent into southern Israel each day, apparently at the direction of the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group. The past week also saw near-daily rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, which caused neither injury nor damage.

In response to the launches, all of which have struck open fields in southern Israel, the IDF has conducted airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

“We understand that Hamas is letting these things happen in the past few weeks, especially with the balloons, as well as looking the other way while others fire rockets and mortar shells,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said Thursday.

Israeli defense officials believe that the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group is trying to increase pressure on Israel in a bid to extract greater concessions in ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

Late last month a senior Hamas official said the recent uptick in number of balloons was a signal to Israel to accelerate unofficial “understandings” meant to ease the blockade on the territory ruled by the terror group.

A bundle of balloons attached to a model plane found near Neot Hovav on January 21, 2020. (Israel Police)

Fears have also mounted in recent days of an escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank following the release last week of a US peace plan that is seen as heavily favoring Israel.

Thursday saw a marked increase of violence that included three attacks on Israelis — shooting attacks near the Temple Mount and the West Bank, and a car-ramming terror attack at a popular entertainment spot in the capital, which injured 12 soldiers, one of them seriously. Also on Thursday, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinians during a home demolition in the West Bank city of Jenin, killing two Palestinian Authority security officials under unclear circumstances, further raising tensions in the region.

As a result of the heightened security situation, Israeli forces were on high alert on Friday. Thousands of extra police officers were deployed to the Old City ahead of the Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, and an extra battalion of combat soldiers was deployed to the West Bank to assist in security operations there, the military said.

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