search

Gaza fire balloons spark 19 blazes in south on Saturday

No reports of injuries in fires, which come after Israel again struck Hamas targets in the Strip in response to rising arson attacks

Illustrative: An IDF soldier stands in front of a fire near Kibbutz Be'eri in southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: An IDF soldier stands in front of a fire near Kibbutz Be'eri in southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip, August 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At least 19 fires were started Saturday by incendiary airborne devices launched from the Gaza Strip, the Fire and Rescue Service said.

Most of the blazes were in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils.

There were no reports of injuries.

The launches came amid a sharp rise in arson attacks from Gaza Strip over the past week.

Late Friday, the Israeli military struck Hamas targets in the Strip for the fourth night in a row in response to the flying of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive objects from Gaza.

The overnight attack on sites used by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, was the fifth such operation since the start of the week.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that combat helicopters and tanks hit a number of terror targets belonging to Hamas, including sites used by its naval forces, underground infrastructure and observation posts. It reiterated That it holds Hamas responsible for all acts in and emanating from the Strip.

On Saturday, Hamas warned of a “dangerous escalation” after two children were reportedly lightly injured in the Israeli strikes.

A youth moves debris on a rooftop following an Israeli strike east of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on August 15, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum claimed Friday’s strikes hit “innocent civilians” and that they constituted a “red line and a dangerous escalation [for which] Israel will bear the consequences.”

Barhoum said the terror groups in Gaza “will not allow the situation to remain as it is,” before adding that they will act to “curb aggression and safeguard the interests of the people.”

Makeshift firebombs attached to bunches of balloons or kites ignited over 100 fires in Israel in the past week, setting alight agricultural fields and brush. Officials said most were small fires, but some caused damage.

Friday night’s attack came a day after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize ties in a landmark US-brokered deal, ratcheting up tensions in the West Bank and Gaza.

The agreement infuriated the Palestinian leadership, who called it a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Abu Dhabi has sought to portray its action as first and foremost benefiting the Palestinians, as it puts off and possibly cancels Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah burn pictures of Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (top) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during a demonstration against the UAE-Israeli agreement to normalize diplomatic ties, August 15, 2020. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

According to a report Friday in the Haaretz daily, Israel has communicated it won’t allow the transfer of a monthly sum of $30 million from Qatar to Gaza unless the spate of incendiary balloon attacks stops.

The report, which did not cite a source, added that the Qatari envoy himself is “not thrilled” to go to the Strip until the escalation is over.

Palestinian analysts say attacks from Gaza often aim to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of the Qatari financial aid into the Strip.

In response to the attacks, Israel has already closed its cargo crossing with the Strip, with exceptions made for food and humanitarian aid, and also reduced the territory’s permitted coastal fishing zone.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, with an uptick since the end of last week.

read more:
comments