More than a dozen blazes were reported in and around Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip Monday as incendiary balloon attacks from the Strip continued to increase. Mayors of communities near the Palestinian enclave demanded action against the fire-causing threat.
No injuries were reported, but 400 dunams of land in the Be’eri nature reserve was burned, Channel 12 news reported Monday night.
One fire was sparked inside a community in the Eshkol region, but it was quickly extinguished, a regional spokesperson said. Firefighters were working to get a number of other fires in Eshkol under control to prevent them from spreading. There was no immediate threat to the communities in the region, the Eshkol official said.
Additional small fires were reported around the communities of Nahal Oz and Erez in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers fired rockets into the sea, after repeated exchanges of fire with Israel in recent days, Palestinian security sources and eyewitnesses said. At least eight rockets were seen in the sky, heading toward the Mediterranean Sea, said AFP journalists in the coastal strip.
Throughout the day, terrorists in Gaza launched balloon-borne explosive and incendiary devices into Israel, causing mid-air blasts and a number of fires in the surrounding regions, according to Israeli officials.
The rockets were a “message” to Israel to let it know that armed groups in Gaza will not “remain silent” in the face of an Israeli blockade and “aggression,” a source close to Hamas told AFP.
Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for more than a decade, since Hamas came into power in a violent coup that ousted the Palestinian Authority. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from reaching Hamas and other terror groups sworn to Israel’s destruction that could be used to attack the Jewish state.
The interior ministry of the Palestinian enclave, which has been under Hamas control since 2007, referred to the rockets as “an act of resistance.”
The source close to Hamas noted that Monday’s rocket fire coincided with the recent launch of incendiary balloons.
Earlier on Monday, residents of the town of Sderot reported hearing explosions overhead, apparently as small balloon-borne bombs detonated in mid-air.
In response to the renewed balloon-based attacks, mayors of the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip released a statement on Monday calling for the government to take action to prevent them.
“Our daily lives are again and again interrupted, by ear-ringing explosions, by fires, but rocket launches on a constant and ongoing basis. All of this, during a medical and economic crisis, which has also left its marks on our region,” the mayors wrote.
“We demand that the government put its disagreements aside and provide a permanent security response to the tens of thousands of residents of the Gaza periphery and Sderot.”
In the past week, several balloons have been launched from Gaza into Israel and on Sunday shots were also fired toward Israeli workers building a security fence surrounding the Palestinian enclave.
The attacks have triggered retaliatory strikes against Hamas positions. The latest came Sunday night when the Israeli military announced that one of its aircraft had struck at a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.
Despite a truce last year, backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons from Gaza and retaliatory strikes by Israel.