Police investigate if ‘suspicious balloon’ in Beersheba came from Gaza
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Police investigate if ‘suspicious balloon’ in Beersheba came from Gaza

Sappers called after cluster of balloons carrying mysterious green package found in the southern city

A masked Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials to be launched into Israel near the Israeli Gaza border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
A masked Palestinian prepares a balloon that will be attached to flammable materials to be launched into Israel near the Israeli Gaza border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Police closed off a street in the southern city of Beersheba on Monday after a “suspicious balloon” was found in the city, stoking fears it could be an incendiary device sent from the Gaza Strip.

“Sappers were called a short time ago to Ringelblum Street in Beersheba due to a suspicious balloon,” police said. “The road was closed and onlookers were kept at a secure distance.”

Police said the balloon was “dealt with” and the road reopened, without giving further details.

A picture released by police showed a cluster of 4 balloons with a small green package suspended below, similar to the hundreds of incendiary balloons that have been launched into Israel from Gaza in recent months, causing massive fire damage.

A suspected incendiary balloon found in Beersheba on July 30 2018 (Police spokesperson)

Beersheeba is some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel has threatened Hamas with a massive incursion into Gaza should it not halt the balloon and kite attacks. However, in recent days, the UN and Egypt have reportedly been working to broker a deal that would bring the violence to an end.

Recent weeks have seen the most serious tensions with Hamas since the 2014 war.

Two weeks ago, an IDF soldier, Aviv Levi, was shot dead on the border by a Gazan sniper. The incident was followed by widespread Israeli airstrikes. UN mediator Nickolay Mladenov later said the sides had been “minutes from war” before a tacit ceasefire was reached.

A ceasefire was hurriedly agreed upon over the weekend but a soldier was moderately wounded by Gaza sniper in a second incident, on Wednesday. Israel responded with tank fire and airstrikes on Hamas targets, and rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory at communities in southern Israel.

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