Incendiary balloons suspected as cause of brush fires near Gaza Strip
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Incendiary balloons suspected as cause of brush fires near Gaza Strip

Blazes break out near Eshkol Regional Council community and in Kissufim Forest; firefighters extinguish flames, no injuries reported

Screen capture from video of firefighters at the scene of a fire in the Kissufim Forest, June 10, 2019. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of firefighters at the scene of a fire in the Kissufim Forest, June 10, 2019. (Twitter)

Authorities in the Eshkol Regional Council near the Gaza Strip on Monday opened an investigation into whether a brush fire that broke out adjacent to a populated area was caused by an incendiary balloon, a spokesman for the municipality said.

Several fires also broke out in the Kissufim Forest which were also believed to have been caused by incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, Hebrew media reported.

Firefighters and KKL JNF Jewish National Fund wardens extinguished the flames. There were no injuries reported.

On Friday Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi said that an unofficial deal with Gazan terrorist groups for calm along the border was proving effective, and that there had been a decrease in the number of incendiary devices flown into Israel.

In addition, Kohavi told heads of communities near Gaza that violence along the border fence had calmed significantly from earlier this year, when clashes between protesting Palestinians and Israeli troops had been a near-daily occurrence.

Kohavi’s comments appeared to confirm the existence of a ceasefire deal with Hamas and other Gaza based terror groups.

Israel has refused to officially acknowledge the ceasefire deal, despite moves being made to ease conditions in the Strip.

Hamas, the de facto ruler in the Strip, and the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad terror group had both confirmed the internationally brokered deal.

Last week Israel again extended the permitted fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip despite the ongoing launching of balloon-borne incendiary devices from the coastal enclave, after having reduced it a week earlier in response to similar attacks.

For the past months, Israel has been extending and reducing the permitted fishing zone around the Gaza Strip as fewer or more incendiary balloons have been sent over the border.

Such arson attacks appear to violate the reported terms of the unofficial truce between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Recent months have seen heightened tensions in the Gaza Strip, including a massive two-day flareup last month between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the Egyptian-brokered agreement that ended that flareup 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 security forces; and a stop to flotillas trying to break through the maritime border between Gaza and Israel.

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