Gazans sent four kites affixed with flaming materials over the border on Monday, setting fire to wide swathes of a wheat field in southern Israel as Palestinians vowed to use the new tactic to try and cause “panic and attrition among the enemy.”
Local farmers in the Shaar Hanegev region called the fire brigade to extinguish the blaze on the Gaza border, which caused no injuries, but did extensive damage. Reports said that up to 100 dunams (25 acres) of wheat was destroyed.
A farmer who lives near the border told Ynet news site that, “We are dealing with a new, destructive and dangerous phenomenon that it gaining momentum. Almost every day, we see the kites flying towards us.”
The burning kites are part of a new tactic utilized by Gaza protesters against Israel, and are connected to the ongoing weekly “March of Return” demonstrations on the border encouraged by the Gaza strip’s rulers, Hamas. Islamist terror group Hamas seeks to destroy Israel, and its leaders say the ultimate goal of the protests is to erase the border and liberate Palestine.
Al-Jazeera reported Wednesday that the self-styled “Sons of Zouari” group in the Gaza Strip announced it was responsible for the flaming kites. The group said it would burn the Israeli fields because this would deny Israelis the right to work the land they viewed as theirs, according to a clip translated and uploaded by the Middle East Media Research Institute on Monday.
In an interview, one of several masked men from the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza told the TV station, “These are our lands, and we have the right to return to them. We say to them, we will not let them sow our lands and enjoy them.
“We will burn your fields, which you harvest to pay for the bullets that you use to shoot children and peaceful unarmed demonstrators.”
The interviewer, who referred to Israeli citizens as “settlers,” asked the man what had inspired the group.
The inspiration, he replied, had come from Mohammed Zouari, a Tunisian-born member of Hamas’s military wing who oversaw the manufacture of drones flown against Israel during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war. Zouari was assassinated in Tunisia in 2016, in a hit that Hamas blamed on Israel.
The interviewee described Zouari as a man whose “new ideas and methods of resistance” were put to use in “the most glorious battles of bravery and self-sacrifice. He introduced the new method of resistance — invasion by air.”
The man went on, “By the grace of Allah, we have managed to implement this idea in a simplified way, through popular resistance, the goal of which is to lead to panic and attrition among the enemy.”
In a separate interview by the Wattan News Agency on Friday, a different masked youth boasted that “we’ve developed something that everybody is talking about.” He then explained how the Molotov cocktails were made, attached to kites, and released.
“Allah willing, it will light up and burn fields and houses,” he said. “It will get to a place where it will burn a large area.”
Kites carrying containers of flaming liquid have already started several fires in fields and outhouses close to the Israeli side of the border with the strip.
On Friday, Palestinians at the Gaza border flew a kite marked with a swastika and carrying a petrol bomb into Israel.
Palestinians in Gaza have engaged in violent clashes with Israeli troops at the border for the past four Fridays, in protests which have seen 39 fatalities — according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry — including that of a 15-year-old Palestinian youth. The Israeli army said the teen was trying to breach the border fence.
Several thousands were involved in the protests on Friday, down from an estimated 10,000 on the third Friday, 20,000 on the second, and 30,000 on the first Friday of the demonstrations.
Hamas has acknowledged that several of those killed in recent weeks were its members, and Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.
Israel accuses Hamas of using civilian shields, including women and children, as cover for carrying out attacks along the border.