Israel media review

Kite or flight: 7 things to know for June 18

With the skies above Gaza heating up, Israel wonders how to respond forcefully to terrorism in its territory, while avoiding an all-out war

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials and then flown toward Israel near the Israeli-Gazan border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
A Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials and then flown toward Israel near the Israeli-Gazan border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

1. Dozens of flaming kites and balloons have been released across the Gaza security fence at Israel over the past weeks, posing a real concern for the Jewish state and pushing ministers to demand a severe response to this new form of terror.

  • Overnight, Israeli aircraft struck a number of targets in the Palestinian coastal enclave, following an IDF directive to treat arson attacks caused by kites or balloons as an act of aggression similar to the firing of rockets.
  • The strikes were on three military compounds and one weapons manufacturing plant in northern Gaza belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip. Israel Hayom on its front page quotes an unnamed army official who warns that the IDF is considering renewing the practice of “targeted killings,” stressing that in such a case, any rogue terrorist who releases a flaming kite will be taken out by Israeli aircraft.

2. Ynet’s veteran military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai explains that the IDF has moved “from a point in which it aims to deter the terrorists operating the kites and balloons, to one of complete deterrence against the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.”

Masked gunmen from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of the Hamas terror group, march with their weapons, during a large-scale drill across the Gaza strip, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
  • By attacking Hamas targets, Ben-Yishai offers, the IDF is signaling to the terrorist group that any misdeeds in the Strip will be treated harshly by Israel – regardless of the affiliation of the perpetrators of the terrorist acts.
  • Ben-Yishai claims that due to the nature of the threat posed by flying flaming objects, though Israel is aware of the fact that the “kite and balloon” terrorists are for the most part adolescents or young men with no clear ties to the more organized groups in Gaza, the Jewish state has no choice but to shift responsibility for curbing the attacks onto Hamas.

3. As the crossfire between Gaza and Israel intensifies, so do concerns that the situation will spiral out of control and deteriorate into a full-scale military confrontation.

  • Yesterday, a military official reportedly told residents of southern Israel that if the IDF were to respond more harshly to the airborne arson devices being sent from the Gaza Strip, it would lead to war.
Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the Be’eri Forest on June 6, 2018. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
  • That is why, according to Haaretz, IDF officials have told Israel’s political leaders that targeting those dispatching the balloons is the wrong approach. Instead, they said, the army should strike the Hamas terrorist group, which would prompt the enclave’s leadership to rein in the arson kite and balloon squads.

4. Following the IDF strikes on Hamas targets, Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

  • The army said two of the rockets fell inside Israel, while the third appeared to fall short of the border. There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border.
  • The rockets were apparently fired by the Islamic Jihad group, which does not necessarily consider itself subject to Hamas.
An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

5. Away from Gaza, another arena is heating up as the Marker reports that the European Broadcasting Union has raised concerns about holding the Eurovision song contest in Israel due to suspected political interference in the event.

  • A TV report on Saturday said Culture Minister Miri Regev has been demanding that Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, coordinate programming for the 2019 contest with the government.
  • One argument made by Regev for her demand relates to the opening statement at this year’s Eurovision voting phase, in which she claimed Kan employee Lucy Ayoub, an Arab Israeli, had greeted hosts and viewers with the words ahlan wa sahlan, Arabic for “welcome.” For the record, Ayoub in fact did not open her remarks that evening in Arabic, and when she did speak in Arabic, she didn’t say ahlan wa sahlan, instead using the greeting marhaba.
Arab Israeli TV and radio host Lucy Ayoub. (CC-BY-SA-4.0 Image courtesy of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation/Wikipedia)

6. In Haaretz, Raviv Drucker blasts a proposed bill to formalize limited ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF, saying that the relative ease with which the proposal had been accepted by the majority of Knesset factions suggests that Israeli secularism has simply “given up.”

  • “The outline of the new plan is clearly pro-Haredi,” Drucker writes. “The personal sanctions imposed on those who are not conscripted were canceled – the ultra-Orthodox again received a few years of adjustment. There is no dispute about the leniency of the outline.”

7. The bill is expected to be passed into law by the Knesset within two weeks.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police during a protest against the arrest of a religious seminary student who failed to comply with a recruitment order, next to the army draft office in Jerusalem, November 28, 2017. (Flash90)
  • The new proposal sets minimum yearly targets for ultra-Orthodox conscription that, if not met, would result in financial sanctions on the yeshivas where they study.
  • If adopted, the target for 2018 would be set at just below 4,000 recruits, with the number increasing by 8 percent per year for three years, 6.5% for the three years after that and 5% for a further four years.

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