Balloon carrying flaming material found on roof of Beersheba home

Incident marks second time this week an airborne incendiary device lands in southern city; 26 fires started Friday by Gaza balloons

Illustrative: Incendiary balloons are flown toward Israel during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops east of Gaza City, along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, on July 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Illustrative: Incendiary balloons are flown toward Israel during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops east of Gaza City, along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, on July 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

A balloon carrying flaming material was found on the roof of a home in the southern city of Beersheba Friday night, following a day of violence on the Gaza border that saw over two dozen fires sparked in southern Israel by incendiary devices launched from the Palestinian enclave.

Residents alerted police to the balloon. After sappers arrived at the scene, any “concern was removed,” Hebrew media quoted police saying.

No injuries or damage were caused.

It was not immediately clear where the balloon was launched from.

It was the second such balloon found in Beersheba this week, raising concerns the incendiary airborne devices could reach even further into Israel. The city is some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The incident came after firefighters battled 26 blazes in the Gaza-area Friday started by flaming balloons, the Fire and Rescue Services said.

Palestinians in Gaza have launched thousands of incendiary devices toward Israeli territory in recent months, sparking hundreds of fires in southern Israel and causing millions of shekels in estimated damages.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze near the southern city of Sderot caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip on July 31 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

The launch of the flaming objects has featured prominently in the “March of Return” clashes, which have taken place weekly along the border since March 30.

On Friday, the army said some 8,000 people took part in the protests at five sites along the border. It said the army responded with riot disposal means and live fire in accordance with appropriate rules of engagement.

In one incident, several Palestinians crossed the border fence and threw firebombs, before returning to Gaza. “In response an IDF tank shelled a post belonging to the Hamas terror group.”

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, one Palestinian was killed and 220 were wounded in the clashes. It said most of those were in injured by Israel Defense Forces snipers during separate demonstrations east of Gaza City and in Khan Younis.

Friday’s protests were held in memory of Mohammad Tareq, a Palestinian who murdered an Israeli man in a terror attack in the West Bank last week.

Organizers urged Gazans to attend Friday’s protests “in order to convey a message that Palestinians will not surrender to the dictates of Israeli terrorism until the siege is lifted,” the Haaretz daily reported.

Palestinian protesters gather as tear gas canisters are launched by Israeli forces during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 3, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

For over three months, there have been near-weekly, violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, leading to the most serious escalation between the two sides since the 2014 war.

The deadly clashes have seen Israeli security forces facing gunfire, grenades, Molotov cocktails and efforts — sometimes successful — to damage or penetrate the border fence. Last month, one Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper.

According to the Gaza health ministry, 157 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the “March of Return” protests on March 30. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

The confrontations have at times spiraled into military exchanges, with Palestinians firing dozens of rockets at southern Israeli towns and the army launching air strikes on Hamas positions in Gaza.

Friday’s clashes came amid reports that the Strip’s Hamas rulers were considering accepting the terms of a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel.

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