Israeli firefighters battle to contain huge blazes sparked by Gaza fire kites

Three separate blazes rage, destroy hundreds of acres of fields and a nature reserve along the Gaza border

Israeli firefighters extinguish a fire in a wheat field caused from kites flown by Palestinian protesters, near the border with the Gaza Strip, May 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli firefighters extinguish a fire in a wheat field caused from kites flown by Palestinian protesters, near the border with the Gaza Strip, May 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Firefighters were working to put out three large fires along the Gaza Strip border, believed to have been started by  incendiary kites flown from the coastal enclave on Saturday.

The largest fire was near to Kibbutz Carmia, adjacent to the northern Gaza Strip. Preliminary estimates suggested that between 2,000 to 3,000 dunam (500 to 740 acres) of fields and parts of a nature reserve adjacent to the kibbutz were destroyed.

Officials at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority estimated that at least one third of the Carmia reserve had been destroyed.

Residents were working alongside with firefighters to try to contain the fires that have become almost daily occurrences since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border at the end of March.

During the protests, Gazans have been flying kites into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land.

It has become a widely adopted tactic during the weekly “March of Return” clashes on the Gaza border, which Israel accuses the Hamas terror group of orchestrating as a cover for attacks and attempts to breach the border fence.

Firefighters were also working to gain control of a blaze near Kibbutz Be’eri, which borders the central Gaza Strip.

Earlier Saturday, an additional fire had broke out in fields belonging to Kibbutz Nir Am also along the northern Gaza Strip.

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On Thursday, firefighters battled similar brush fires between the Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha kibbutzim that authorities suspect were caused by firebomb-laden kites flown across the security fence by Palestinians.

Local residents told Israel Radio they were concerned that they would not be provided compensation for the damage, as the burden for proving they were victims of a terror attack fell on them.

Zionist Union MK Eitan Brosh told the radio that lawmakers from his party would tour the area Sunday and work to provide the residents with solutions to their ongoing distress.

The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue.

In the past month, at least 300 attack kites have been flown across the border, starting hundreds of fires and causing an estimated tens of millions of shekels’ worth of damages.

Military planners have begun implementing new measures to combat the assaults, including options drawn from the IDF’s responses to rocket launches and other terror attacks.

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