Egypt pressures Hamas to stop airborne arson within days — report
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Egypt pressures Hamas to stop airborne arson within days — report

Hamas reportedly tells Egypt it is unable to halt the fire balloons and kites but is working to reduce the number

File: Masked Palestinians prepare balloons loaded with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
File: Masked Palestinians prepare balloons loaded with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Egypt has told Hamas that it must work to halt the practice of sending flying incendiary devices from Gaza into Israel within a few days, according to a Tuesday report.

Cairo sent a message to Hamas saying that it had a few days to clamp down on the kites, balloons and other objects with flammable materials being flown over the border, according to the Ynet news site.

The report did not say when the message was sent and there was no immediate confirmation of its contents.

Hamas explained to the Egyptians that it is unable to stop the attacks but is working to reduce their number, according to the report.

“Hamas cannot stop the balloons in one go, because it will harm its status vis-a-vis the residents of the Gaza Strip and those who support it in general, because it would be a capitulation, so therefore it must do so gradually,” a source in Gaza told Ynet.

The kites and balloons, some of which Israel says are booby-trapped with explosives, have wreaked havoc in the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip since the phenomenon began in April, sparking fires that have scorched over 7,000 acres of land and caused millions of shekels in damage.

Israeli firefighters extinguish a blaze in a field in southern Israel, which was caused by kites flown by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on June 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The government and military have come under intense domestic pressure to step up the response to the balloons and kites, which has mostly consisted of firing warning shots at cells launching the devices.

The Ynet report comes hours after Israel announced fresh restrictions at its commercial crossing with the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the administrators of the Rafah passage linking Egypt to the Palestinian enclave announced its crossing would also be shuttered in both directions on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office said the restrictions were toughened due to “continued terror attempts” by Hamas, which is allowing, encouraging and participating in flying incendiary devices and bombs into Israel with balloons and kites.

The arson attacks continued Monday, when at least seven blazes were started in the Eshkol region.

Hamas warned Israel that the closure would have “dangerous consequences.”

“The Israeli occupation’s closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and depriving Gaza from the most simple necessities of life is a crime against humanity that will be added to its list of crimes at the expense of the Palestinian people including those living in the Strip,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum in a statement posted on the organization’s official website.

“These vengeful measures reflect the degree of the oppression and the ugliness of the crime that Gaza is facing, that will have dangerous consequences for which the occupation will bear full responsibility,” the terrorist group said.

Palestinian trucks seen at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, , July 9, 2018 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The new restrictions came after a weekend flareup between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Strip, in which some 200 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel and the IDF carried out multiple strikes inside the Palestinian enclave.

On Saturday night, a ceasefire of sorts was brokered by Egypt and other international bodies, though Israel was not directly involved in the talks.

Hamas has said it does not see the kites and balloons as illegitimate or a breach of the agreement.

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