In the past several weeks, Israel has prevented tens of thousands of balloons from being shipped to Gaza, out of concern they would be used to launch incendiary devices into Israel, according to a television report on Sunday.
Three shipping containers destined for the coastal enclave and carrying tens of thousands of balloons were stopped at the Ashdod port and confiscated, Channel 10 reported.
Southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza in recent months. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damage, according to Israeli officials.
Despite an apparent truce with the Hamas terrorist group since Thursday, incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza have continued to plague Israeli border communities, with a large incendiary kite landing on power lines near Kibbutz Sufa on Friday, causing blackouts in surrounding homes.
On Sunday, the Ynet news site published a video, filmed by one of the residents of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, of an incendiary device attached to an inflated condom which had been launched from Gaza. The balloon carried flammable material attached to a time delay fuse. Only after it landed did the device burst into flames.
In this case, the fire was extinguished quickly and caused no damage.
A spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said that Sunday marked the first day in several months that no fires were caused by incendiary balloons flown from Gaza toward Israeli communities bordering the coastal enclave. However, he later said it appeared that at least one fire was started by the the arson devices.
Earlier on Sunday, the top-level security cabinet met to discuss the ongoing Gaza Strip violence and the military options available, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel wants a full ceasefire and nothing less.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers claim an Egyptian and UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect at the end of last week, though senior Israel officials maintain the country has not agreed to to it. Hamas, a terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, claims the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.
The apparent truce came after two days of spiraling violence that saw the heaviest exchanges of fire between Israel and the Gaza terrorist organization since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. During the flareup Hamas fired over 150 rockets and mortars into southern Israel which responded with about the same number of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
Senior Israeli officials have said that “quiet will be met by quiet,” implying that the country is not seeking an escalation of violence, but has not openly committed to an end to hostilities. Instead, military officials hope the terror group has internalized the damage Israel can cause to its infrastructure.