Booby-trapped Gaza balloons land on trampoline; mom tells kids: They’re not toys
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Booby-trapped Gaza balloons land on trampoline; mom tells kids: They’re not toys

Mother of home where explosive device lands says her daughter, 7, now knows ‘balloons that we don’t recognize are suspicious’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A cluster of balloons with a small explosive device attached to them, which landed and got stuck on a trampoline in a backyard in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol Security)
A cluster of balloons with a small explosive device attached to them, which landed and got stuck on a trampoline in a backyard in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol Security)

A cluster of balloons carrying a small explosive device that was launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip landed in a nearby community on Wednesday, getting stuck on a backyard trampoline.

“Balloons on a trampoline in the backyard — that’s a decorative play area and beckons the most innocent ones, and yet our children have lost their innocence because of this phenomenon,” said Meirav Vidal, whose house it was.

“These days it’s important to explain to kids that balloons are also a ‘suspicious object’ that they have to keep away from, to not touch and to call an adult,” Vidal said.

She said her daughter had gotten the message: “Like my seven-year-old says: ‘Balloons that we don’t recognize are suspicious.'”

The balloons that got stuck on the trampoline were one of at least three sets that landed in the Eshkol region on Wednesday.

A balloon with a small explosive device attached to it, which got stuck in a tree in a backyard in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol Security)

A second cluster of balloons got stuck in a tree in another backyard, and the third bunch landed in an agricultural field, a spokesperson for the region said.

In all three cases, small explosives were attached to the balloons by a string, the official said.

“No damage was caused,” she said.

Vidal happens to serve as the head of the Eshkol region’s “resilience center,” a service offered by all the local governments in the Gaza periphery, which is meant to help the civilian population handle the stresses of the regular violence from the Gaza Strip and carry on living.

Vidal said that although children have to be taught that balloons can be “suspicious,” she will continue to use them for festivities.

“During the next birthdays, we will still decorate the trampoline with balloons and continue to celebrate,” she said.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched hundreds of kites and helium balloons bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of land in southern Israel. At least three fires were reported in Israeli communities close to the Gaza border on Wednesday.

A masked Palestinian man launches a balloon loaded with flammable materials toward Israel from the southern Gaza town of Rafah on June 17, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Around midnight on Tuesday, Israeli jets bombed three Hamas positions in the Strip in response to numerous airborne arson attacks by Gazans earlier in the day.

Minutes later, Palestinians in the Strip launched the first of many rocket and mortar barrages at southern Israel, triggering sirens throughout the area and sending thousands into bomb shelters.

Over the course of the next four hours, some 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel, with at least six exploding inside communities, causing damage but no injuries.

In response, the Israeli military carried out two more rounds of airstrikes in Gaza, hitting a total of approximately 25 targets on a number of Hamas compounds.

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