Five fires caused by flaming kites near Gaza fence extinguished
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Five fires caused by flaming kites near Gaza fence extinguished

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Strip have launched hundreds of flying devices with flammable materials into Israeli territory, starting over 200 blazes

Two Palestinians help fly a 'fire kite' from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory during mass demonstrations along the security fence on June 8, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Two Palestinians help fly a 'fire kite' from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory during mass demonstrations along the security fence on June 8, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Five fires broke out Saturday in the area of Kibbutz Be’eri and Kissufim near the Gaza security fence, after flaming kites were flown into Israeli territory from within the Hamas-controlled Strip.

All the fires were extinguished by local firefighting teams and security coordinators. No casualties were reported.

Using drones, a group of conscripted soldiers and hobbyists pressed into service have managed to bring down over 500 fire kites and balloons launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory over the past 10 weeks, a senior officer said Thursday.

The Israeli military anticipated that many more so-called “terror kites” and “terror balloons” would be flown into Israel from Gaza at the weekend as part of large-scale “March of Return” protests organized and supported by the Hamas terror group, which rules the coastal enclave.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched hundreds of helium balloons and kites bearing flammable materials into Israeli territory, starting over 200 fires, according to authorities.

A firefighter attempts to extinguish a fire near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza Strip on June 8, 2018, after it was sparked by a flaming kite flown by Palestinians from across the border. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The flying objects are fitted with a long string to which a Molotov cocktail, pouch of burning fuel or, in a few rare cases, an improvised explosive device is attached.

In Friday’s border violence, Gazans used helium-filled balloons to carry explosives, detonated by remote control, in attempts to attack troops, the IDF said. Officials said no soldiers were hurt in those attempted attacks.

Four Gazans were killed in clashes at the border Friday.

Nearly 18,000 dunams (4,500 acres) of agricultural fields, forests and grasslands have been burned, causing over NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) worth of damage, officials said.

In two months of mass protests at the Gaza border, over 120 Palestinians were believed killed and thousands wounded by Israeli military fire. The majority of the fatalities were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acknowledged. Israel said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of the protests.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that in order to cover the cost of damage to affected fields, the government would consider withholding tax revenue funds from the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli firefighters extinguish a fire in a field in southern Israel, caused by kites flown by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip on June 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The decision raised eyebrows among Israeli analysts, who pointed out that the PA does not control the Gaza Strip. Indeed, the authority’s primary rival, the Hamas terror group, has ruled the enclave since ousting the PA in a violent coup in 2007. Making the PA financially responsible for the kites could incentivize Hamas to continue encouraging the tactic, analysts have warned.

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