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Gaza incendiary balloons spark 6 fires in southern Israel

Terror group says ‘this is just the beginning’ as blazes reported in areas close to the border; slight damage caused to a wheat field in the Eshkol region

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Land in southern Israel, near the Gaza border, burnt by incendiary balloons sent from Gaza. (Moshe Baruchi/KKL-JNF/courtesy)
Land in southern Israel, near the Gaza border, burnt by incendiary balloons sent from Gaza. (Moshe Baruchi/KKL-JNF/courtesy)

At least six brush fires were ignited Thursday in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the fire department said.

Two of the fires ignited in the Be’eri forest, and another four in the Kissufim forest, two nature reserves located on the border of Israel and Gaza, a spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund said.

Slight damage was caused to a wheat field in one of the fires, a spokesperson for the Eshkol regional council said, confirming that there was no danger to any nearby towns.

The Fire and Rescue Services said as the fires were small and were quickly gotten under control.

In Gaza, the so-called balloon unit, Ibna Al-Zuwari, said it had launched balloon-borne incendiary devices toward Israel.

“This is just the beginning,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

On Monday, two balloons carrying suspected explosive devices that were apparently launched from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, local authorities said, in the first such attacks in months. The suspected bombs were found in agricultural fields in the community of Kfar Aza, east of Gaza City.

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, though there have been relatively few launches of late as the Israeli government and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group have reportedly been negotiating a long-term ceasefire.

Earlier this month, terrorists in Gaza launched dozens of rockets at southern Israel. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, where they caused no injury or damage, but a few struck inside Israeli communities, with shrapnel hitting buildings and vehicles.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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