Gaza balloon suspected of causing bush fire near border community

Fire and rescue services extinguish small blaze in Sdot Negev Regional Council area close to boundary with Palestinian enclave

Illustrative: A balloon carrying an incendiary device is flown out of the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019 (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A balloon carrying an incendiary device is flown out from the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019 (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

A fire in the area of the Sdot Negev Regional Council on Monday was started by an incendiary balloon flown over the border from the Gaza Strip, Fire and Rescue Services said.

A spokesman for the fire services said firefighters extinguished the blaze, which he describes as a small brush fire.

The tactic of launching balloons carrying explosive and arson devices from Gaza into Israel emerged last year as part of a series of protests and riots along the Strip’s border, known collectively as the March of Return. The simple and cheap method of attack by Palestinians has proved effective as Israeli security forces have struggled to counter the tactic.

From April to June 2018, Israeli firefighters extinguished 1,954 fires started by arson attacks in the fields, forests and grasslands around the Gaza Strip. They fought 383 blazes over the same period in 2019.

In addition, throughout 2018, approximately 34,000 dunams — 8,400 acres — of Israeli land were burned in arson attacks, according to statistics from the Fire and Rescue Services, Jewish National Fund and Nature and Parks Authority.

As of June, 1,400 dunams — 345 acres — of land were damaged by incendiary devices from the Strip in 2019.

Israel has reportedly demanded that the Hamas terror group, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, clamp down on the balloon attacks as part of unofficial ceasefire agreements in which border calm is rewarded with concessions to Gaza including the easing of import restrictions and allowing deliveries of millions of dollars of cash from Qatar.

Monday’s blaze followed a weekend in which Israel Defense Forces killed at least three armed Palestinians it said were aiming to infiltrate via the border fence overnight Saturday and Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said. Fragments from one of the Gaza rockets struck the yard of a home in the town of Sderot, causing damage but no injuries.

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