Firebomb-bearing kites sent over the Gaza border on Saturday sparked two brush fires in southern Israel, the latest in a slew of incidents in which airborne combustibles launched from the Palestinian enclave managed to set Israeli fields ablaze.
Firefighters were working to extinguish two separate brush fires in the Be’eri Forest and Kibbutz Kfar Azza, adjacent to the border, according to Hadashot TV news. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
In recent weeks, Gazans have been flying kites into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of fields and crops.
The tactic was introduced as part of the weekly “March of Return” demonstrations at the border fence, which began on March 30 and are due to culminate next week when the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem. The mass protests are being encouraged by the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, and whose leaders say their goal is the erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”
During Friday’s demonstration, a kite from Gaza carrying flammable material started a fire in fields near Kibbutz Am, close to the border.
The largest blaze yet sparked by the firebomb-bearing kites happened Wednesday near Kibbutz Be’eri, an Israeli community located some seven kilometers (4.3 miles) east of Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp. The fire took over 6 hours to extinguish and consumed dozens of dunams of grasslands and agricultural fields in the area.
With the number of kite attacks now reaching as many as 15 per day, military planners have begun implementing new measures to end the practice, including options drawn from the IDF’s responses to rocket launches and other terror attacks.
Specialized IDF drones designed to destroy the burning kites midair were used successfully for the first time during Friday’s protests, Walla news reported. An IDF official told the news website that the drones destroyed over 40 burning kites throughout the border demonstrations.
Hadashot news reported last week that the IDF is also considering retaliating for kite launches with airstrikes against Hamas infrastructure, as it does each time a rocket is launched from Gaza toward Israel. It is also considering deploying special ground-based snipers to target those on the ground in Gaza launching the kites.
One of the Palestinians who launched a burning kite on Friday was reportedly shot by IDF snipers, in what would be the first instance if Israeli security forces clamping down on the arson attempts.
The IDF has warned Gazans against sending blazing kites over the border, saying Israel would not tolerate the “arson phenomenon.”
— Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report