More than 7,000 acres scorched in Gaza arson attacks, authorities say
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More than 7,000 acres scorched in Gaza arson attacks, authorities say

Jewish National Fund says 3,000 acres of forest and 4,000 acres of farmland in northern Negev damaged by airborne incendiary devices

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

More than 7,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern and Western Negev desert has been damaged by arson attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Marking six months since Palestinians in Gaza began sending incendiary balloons and kites over the border toward southern Israel, Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund reported Wednesday that some 3,279 acres  (12,270 dunams) of forests have been damaged by fires caused by the cross-border attacks.

Another 4,000 acres of farmland also have been destroyed by the fires.

KKL-JNF firefighting teams have been on call around the clock to quickly detect and respond to the ongoing fires, the group said in a statement.

The most damage has occurred in the Beeri and Kisufim forests in the Western Negev, and forests near the city of Sderot and Kibbutz Lahav in the northern Negev.

On Monday, KKL-JNF’s board of directors allocated NIS 100 million ($27.5 million) for special projects to help the Gaza border area communities.

Palestinians load kites and balloons with flammable material in order to fly toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip, on June 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mahmud Hams)

Over the last six months, southern Israel has experienced near-daily fires that were sparked by incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from the Gaza Strip as part of the ongoing Hamas-led protests.

The weekly protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return” appeared to slow in August as the Gaza-ruling terror group entered indirect talks with Israel aimed at a long-term ceasefire. But when those talks stalled last month, Hamas increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and established new units tasked with sustaining the arson attacks and border riots.

Meanwhile, incendiary balloons have been found farther and farther from the Gaza Strip, including as far away as central Israel.

Earlier on Wednesday, an incendiary balloon was discovered in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood. This comes on the heels of a similar arson balloon discovered in the courtyard of a home in the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, located just north of Jerusalem.

Palestinian protesters watch as tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces comes through black smoke of burning tires during a demonstration along the border fence east of Gaza City on September 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Last week, an incendiary balloon landed on a highway near the Modiin industrial zone in central Israel.

Israel has struggled to counter the ongoing arson attacks, and has increasingly carried out airstrikes on Palestinians preparing to launch incendiaries, killing or injuring those involved.

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