Incendiary balloon sparks blaze in Gaza border region
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Incendiary balloon sparks blaze in Gaza border region

No reports of injury and damage to property; fire and rescue services say investigation finds flames were caused by airborne-incendiary

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the Eshkol region of southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device from the Gaza Strip on May 22, 2019. (Eli Cohen/Fire and Rescue Services)
Illustrative. Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the Eshkol region of southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device from the Gaza Strip on May 22, 2019. (Eli Cohen/Fire and Rescue Services)

A fire that broke out Tuesday in an area close to the Gaza Strip was caused by an incendiary balloon, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services said in a statement Tuesday.

The brushfire was in the Eshkol Regional Council area. There were no reports of injury or damage to property.

“After an investigation, fire inspectors concluded that it was caused by an incendiary balloon,” the statement said.

Israel announced Saturday night that, as of Sunday, the fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip will be expanded to 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers), four days after it was reduced to 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) amid a rash of incendiary balloon attacks from the coastal Palestinian territory.

Since last March, incendiary balloons have caused fires which destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in southern Israel, in particular in the areas bordering Gaza.

Recent weeks have seen tensions in the Strip soar, following a massive two-day flare-up earlier this month between Israel and terror groups in the Palestinian enclave.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the agreement that ended that flare-up included a Hamas obligation to halt violent incidents along the border fence, maintaining a buffer zone 300 meters from the border, an end to the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities and nighttime clashes between Gazans and Israeli security forces, and a stop to flotillas trying to break through the maritime border between Gaza and Israel.

In return, Israel reportedly agreed to expand the fishing zone, enable the United Nations cash-for-work programs, allow medicine and other civil aid to enter the Strip, and open negotiations on matters relating to electricity, crossings, healthcare and funds.

Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have participated in regular protests along the border, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of the Jewish state.

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