IDF fires at Gazans launching incendiary balloons at Israel
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IDF fires at Gazans launching incendiary balloons at Israel

No word on casualties in strike near Rafah; balloon with bomb affixed lands on kibbutz fence; 5 fires rage in other Israeli communities due to arson attacks

Masked Palestinians calling themselves the "night confusion units" hold incendiary devices attached to balloons to be flown toward Israel, near the border with Israel east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Masked Palestinians calling themselves the "night confusion units" hold incendiary devices attached to balloons to be flown toward Israel, near the border with Israel east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

An Israeli aircraft on Sunday evening carried out an airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip against a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons towards Israel, the army said.

Palestinians said the strike took place near the city of Rafah. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.

Gazans frequently launch incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, 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 carried improvised explosive devices.

Earlier on Sunday, Channel 10 news reported that a bomb was found attached to a balloon that landed near the fence of a kibbutz in southern Israel. It was defused by sappers.

Firefighters have also worked to extinguish five blazes caused by an incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip since Sunday morning, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said.

On Saturday evening, a huge fire erupted at Moshav Ein Habesor in southern Israel, apparently due to an incendiary device launched from Gaza. Farmers, firefighters, and security officers worked together to stop the flames from reaching nearby greenhouses, the Ynet news site reported.

Israeli soldiers extinguish a fire started by a balloon with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza Strip in Moshav Kfar Maimon, October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services said that in total on Saturday firefighters extinguished seven blazes near Israeli towns along the border caused by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.

 

Also Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered Gaza’s fishing zones restricted, due to the escalation of border violence along the southern frontier. The fishing zone was curtailed from nine to six nautical miles, the Defense Ministry said, following deliberations between Liberman and defense officials.

Three Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were reported killed and dozens injured, as some 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent clashes Friday along the Gaza border, throwing hand grenades and trying to breach the barrier. During the riots, the army said Israeli aircraft struck two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip after Palestinians threw grenades and explosive devices at Israeli troops.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate at the Erez border crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip on October 3, 2018. (AFP/Said KHATIB)

The large-scale protests came as Israel signaled it was rapidly losing patience and willing to go to war to stop the violence, while Gaza’s Hamas rulers vowed to push on with the riots.

Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both warned that Israel could take more drastic action in response to the riots and attacks, now that the Jewish Holiday period was over.

Border riots, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have increased dramatically in recent weeks. They began as weekly events from late March through the summer, but appeared to slow as Hamas entered indirect talks with Israel aimed at a ceasefire.

As these talks have stalled, Hamas has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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