Hamas renews funding for incendiary kite units ahead of expected escalation

Terror group set to renew violence amid rising criticism from Gazans, who see recent cash injections from Qatar as easing living conditions only of Hamas members rather than public

A Palestinian protester displays a kite loaded with an incendiary device before launching it towards Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 29, 2018 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

An Egyptian security delegation is expected to arrive in Gaza in the coming days in an attempt to prevent a deterioration in the security situation along the border with Israel this weekend.

On Tuesday, the “Supreme National Authority for the March of Return and Breaking of the Siege,” the body officially behind the weekly border protests that the Hamas terror group has been encouraging since last March, called on the Palestinian public to participate extensively in marches near the fence on Friday.

Over the past two weeks, after a months-long lull, there has been an increase in the number of demonstrations close to the fence, and last Friday also saw a rise in the number of violent incidents at those protests.

There have also been attempts by Palestinians to break through the fence at several locations, and an explosives-laden drone attached to balloons was launched toward Israel on Sunday, followed by a rocket attack.

A drone-shaped device from the Gaza Strip, borne by dozens of helium balloons, lands in a carrot field in southern Israel on January 6 ,2019. (Courtesy)

These moves have been interpreted by Israel as an attempt by Hamas to renew hostilities in light of its ongoing failure to change the reality of life in Gaza.

Monthly cash injections of $15 million from Qatar via Israel over the past two months have been perceived by some in Gaza as designed to ease the living conditions only of Hamas members rather than the public at large. The result has been an increase in criticism of the terror group among Gazans. This is exacerbated by the fact that electricity supply to the coastal enclave has again decreased to only five hours of power followed by 12-hour outages.

Palestinian sources in Gaza report that Hamas is planning to renew incendiary balloon attacks, along with the offensive tactics implemented in the weeks preceding the Qatari cash injection.

A week ago, Hamas officials met with the heads of the “kite unit,” as well as the leaders of the groups the so-called “tire unit” and a unit that carries out a variety of operations close to the border under the cover of darkness, such as demonstrations and attempts to damage the fence.

At that meeting, the unit heads received a new budget to prepare for the next round of violence.

Earlier this week, those units were expected to hold a press conference in Gaza at which they were to announce the relaunch of their activities. However, the event was canceled for reasons that were not immediately clear.

Hamas’s recent attempts to escalate the situation along the border have been linked to the ongoing failure of mediators, chief among them Egypt, to secure a reconciliation agreement between the Islamist terror group and the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this week, Israel reportedly asked Qatar to delay its monthly delivery of $15 million to the Gaza Strip, after a rocket was fired from the coastal enclave at a southern Israeli city.

Palestinians wave their national flags while others burn tires near the fence of Gaza Strip border with Israel during clashes east of Gaza City, on November 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The Qatari cash injection is part of an unofficial truce between Hamas and Israel that was supposed to see an end to months of violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border in exchange for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave.

Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent weapons smuggling by Hamas and other terror groups sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Gaza protesters have launched hundreds of incendiary kites and balloons into Israel over the past nine months, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Thousands of acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have also carried improvised explosive devices.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming from Gaza, where the terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, has held sway since seizing control in 2007 by ousting the West Bank-based PA.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more: