Strong winds hampered efforts to control fires which broke out at three points near Kibbutz Kissufim along the Gaza border Friday after incendiary kites were flown into Israel from the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Video filmed by the Jewish National Fund showed a huge fire burning its way through trees and foliage.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
By late afternoon, fire services said they brought the blazes under control.
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.
עכשיו ביער כיסופים. עפיפון טרור. מצדיע לתושבי עוטף עזה. כל יום חוטפים בומבה חדשה כבר 14-15 שנה. מרגמות, טילים, קסאמים, ירי צלפים על חקלאים ועכשיו עפיפוני טרור. זה מזכיר לי את הסיפורים מלפני ששת הימים על תושבי עין גב. חשבנו שזה הזוי אבל הנה ההיסטוריה חוזרת.
צילון דני בן דוד קקל. pic.twitter.com/ZZHjTvsv1p
— Avitan Dudi (@avitandudi) May 25, 2018
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 last 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 Hamas 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.
The largest blaze yet sparked by the firebomb-bearing kites happened two weeks ago 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.
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.
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.