Kibbutz wheat field along Gaza border set ablaze from apparent flaming kite

Kibbutz Mefalsim residents say this is fifth time farmland has been targeted in recent months; firefighters working to extinguish flames

An Israeli farmer puts out a fire in his wheat field that was started by an incendiary kite from Gaza, outside Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel, on May 14, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
An Israeli farmer puts out a fire in his wheat field that was started by an incendiary kite from Gaza, outside Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel, on May 14, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

A fire broke out in a wheat field outside of Kibbutz Mefalsim along the Gaza border Saturday due to what appeared to have been another incendiary kite flown from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Firefighters were on site to extinguish the blaze adjacent to the border with Gaza. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Locals said this was the fifth time that the wheat field had been set ablaze by kites over the past two months.

In recent weeks, Gazans have been flying kites into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of fields.

The tactic was introduced as part of the weekly “March of Return” demonstrations at the border fence, which began on March 30 and came to a head on Monday when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem and at least 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes, a majority of them Hamas members, the terror group has acknowledged.

Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in the weekly protests, which Israel says are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.

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

Last Sunday, another flaming kite flown over the Gaza border sparked a fire in southern Israel. A day prior, kites from Gaza caused two separate brush fires in the Be’eri Forest and Kibbutz Kfar Azza, adjacent to the border, according to Hadashot TV news.

The largest blaze yet sparked by the firebomb-bearing kites happened last Wednesday near Kibbutz Be’eri, an Israeli community located some seven kilometers (4.3 miles) east of Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp. The fire took over six hours to extinguish and consumed dozens of dunams of grasslands and agricultural fields in the area.

Illustrative: Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail, during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

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.

Specialized IDF drones designed to destroy the burning kites midair were used successfully for the first time during last Friday’s protests, Walla news reported. An IDF official told the news website that the drones destroyed over 40 burning kites throughout the border demonstrations.

Hadashot news reported earlier this month that the IDF is considering retaliating for kite launches with airstrikes against Hamas infrastructure, as it does each time a rocket is launched from Gaza toward Israel. It is also considering deploying special ground-based snipers to target those on the ground in Gaza launching the kites.

One of the Palestinians who launched a burning kite last week was reportedly shot by IDF snipers, in what would be the first instance of Israeli security forces clamping down on the arson attempts.

The IDF has warned Gazans against sending blazing kites over the border, saying Israel would not tolerate the “arson phenomenon.”

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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