A balloon with a hand grenade attached to it was discovered in a peanut field near the Gaza border Monday, between the southern kibbutzim of Re’im and Urim, police said Monday.
Police volunteers identified the helium-filled balloon as it came down in the field. Police sappers were called the scene to neutralize the grenade, and Route 234 between the two communities was temporarily closed to traffic.
An IDF spokesman said the army was investigating whether the balloon was flown over the Gaza border.
Locals said harvest was planned for tomorrow, and a tractor could have set the grenade off had it not been identified by the volunteers.
However it was not immediately clear whether the weapon was a fragmentation grenade or a stun or teargas grenade.
Meanwhile Palestinians burned tires and rioted in the northern Gaza Strip, as a 15-boat flotilla set sail from the area in an effort to break the Israeli maritime blockade.
In response, IDF troops reportedly launched tear gas canisters at the rioters and fired live rounds to disperse the protest in Beit Lahiya.
Reports in Palestinian media said dozens of people were injured by Israeli fire and tear gas.
A surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the “March of Return.” The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.
Gaza protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have carried improvised explosive devices.
On Friday, some 12,000 Palestinians participated in the weekly demonstrations along the border. The army said rioters burned tires and hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded according to open-fire regulations. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said three protesters were killed by Israeli fire in the protests.
On Sunday, 300 Palestinians took part in three separate violent border protests throwing rocks, firebombs and high-powered fireworks at soldiers.
The IDF said soldiers responded by launching tear gas canisters and firing live rounds “in accordance with the rules of engagement.
Israel says its actions — and in particular the use of live ammunition — are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory. Israel has accused the Hamas terror group of encouraging the protests and using them as cover to attempt to carry out terror attacks, including firing at troops and attempting to breach the border fence.