IDF again shoots near, not at, Gazans preparing to fly ‘fire kites’ into Israel
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IDF again shoots near, not at, Gazans preparing to fly ‘fire kites’ into Israel

For second time Wednesday, Israeli military fires warning shot at cell trying to launch airborne arson devices from the coastal enclave

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. Palestinians fly a kite as they gather at the border fence with Israel, east of Jabalia in the central Gaza city, during a protest on April 13, 2018. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Illustrative. Palestinians fly a kite as they gather at the border fence with Israel, east of Jabalia in the central Gaza city, during a protest on April 13, 2018. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

An Israeli aircraft on Wednesday fired warning shots at a group of Palestinians preparing to fly incendiary kites toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, for the second time of the day, the army said.

There were no reports of injuries.

The military said the group was operating out of the northern Gaza Strip and attempted to fly kites carrying incendiary devices into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces conducted a similar strike earlier in the day, firing at a group of Gazans who had launched a number of balloons at southern Israel, some of which appeared to have landed in the Eshkol region.

The Israeli military has carried out multiple warning strikes in recent weeks at groups of Gazans preparing to launch incendiary devices toward Israel. The army has said repeatedly that it will act to prevent the launch of the airborne incendiary devices and explosives.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched hundreds of kites and helium balloons bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of land in southern Israel. At least three fires were reported in Israeli communities close to the Gaza border on Wednesday.

A Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials and then flown toward Israel near the Israeli-Gazan border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli leaders were split on how to respond to these airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on site, while others argued that this was a step too far.

In recent days, the military has attempted to force the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, to rein in these aerial arsonists by carrying out airstrikes on the organization’s positions in response to these kite and balloon attacks.

An explosion is seen from the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after an airstrike by Israeli forces in response to dozens of rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups from the coastal enclave on June 20, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Around midnight on Tuesday, Israeli jets bombed three Hamas positions in the Strip in response to numerous airborne arson attacks by Gazans earlier in the day.

Minutes later, Palestinians in the Strip launched the first of many rocket and mortar barrages at southern Israel, triggering sirens throughout the area and sending thousands into bomb shelters.

Over the course of the next four hours, some 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel, with at least six exploding inside communities, causing damage but no injuries, including one that landed just outside a kindergarten.

In response, the Israeli military carried out two more rounds of airstrikes in Gaza, hitting a total of approximately 25 targets on a number of Hamas compounds.

A police sapper digs up a rocket fired from Gaza that landed outside a kindergarten in one of the communities of the Eshkol region on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol region)

On Wednesday morning, Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol region, praised the IDF for carrying out its initial airstrike in response to the arson attacks.

“Eshkol residents had a sleepless night last night,” Yarkoni said. “We support the IDF for its response to the terror kites, which harm our way of life. And we expect the IDF to continue working to bring back calm to the region, with no more rockets launched at our communities and homes, and no more fires in our fields.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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