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Cluster of balloons suspected of carrying explosives from Gaza lands in Israel

After months of relative calm along the frontier, terror groups in the Strip indicate they will resume low-level cross-border attacks

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

A bunch of balloons attached to an incendiary device is prepared to be flown into Israel, near the Israel-Gaza border east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, January 22, 2020. (Ail Ahmed/ Flash90)
Illustrative. A bunch of balloons attached to an incendiary device is prepared to be flown into Israel, near the Israel-Gaza border east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, January 22, 2020. (Ail Ahmed/ Flash90)

A cluster of balloons carrying a suspected explosive device that was apparently launched from the Gaza Strip landed outside the southern Israeli community of Tidhar on Sunday morning, local officials said.

A police sapper was sent to the scene to remove the suspicious object, a police spokesperson said.

“Units closed off the area to prevent any injuries,” the spokesman said.

It was the first such balloon-based cross-border attack in several months, though a small number of balloons without suspected explosives attached to them have been flown over the border during that time.

The incident came against the backdrop of growing threats by groups associated with terrorist organizations in the Strip to resume the practice of these airborne explosives and arson devices into Israel, having stopped in February as Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group began negotiating a long-term ceasefire and prisoner exchange.

In an interview with Palestinian television on Saturday, leading Palestinian Islamic Jihad member Ahmed al-Modallal indicated that terror groups were giving the praactice a green light, saying the balloons were being launched by “youths who are letting out their emotions and responding to their distressed lives in Gaza that have no horizon.”

The generally restive Gaza border has been calm in recent months, following a large flareup in February in which Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel after the Israel Defense Forces killed one of its members as he was planting a bomb along the border. The IDF responded to the rocket attacks with a series of punishing airstrikes on the group’s bases in the Strip.

In the interim three and a half months, Israel has been negotiating a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which has reined in the Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Strip throughout the process as well as the often violent demonstrations along the Gaza border.

In recent days, however, Gaza terror groups have indicated they would restart the low-level violence along the border, including the protests.

Israel has conducted three large operations against terror groups in the Gaza Strip in the past 12 years, as well as many shorter, multi-day exchanges.

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