Police sappers called as balloon-borne bomb found in Ashdod

Police sappers called as balloon-borne bomb found in Ashdod

Police call on public to alert authorities to suspicious-looking objects, and refrain from approaching them; Thursday saw bomb detonate shortly after landing in open field

Illustrative: A balloon carrying an incendiary device is flown out of the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019 (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A balloon carrying an incendiary device is flown out of the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019 (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Police sappers were scrambled in the coastal city of Ashdod on Friday after an explosive device tied to a bunch of balloons was found near the town’s promenade.

There was no official word on the source of the bomb, but it was likely to have come from the Gaza Strip. Terrorists have flown in numerous bombs and incendiary devices into Israeli territory from the enclave with the aid of helium-filled balloons — including two bombs on Thursday.

Police called on the public to alert authorities to any suspicious-looking objects and refrain from approaching them.

On Thursday at least two clusters of balloons carrying explosive devices were apparently launched from the Strip into southern Israel, with one of them detonating soon after impact, police said.

One of the clusters landed in an open field and the other got tangled in a tree.

Police sappers were called to the scenes in the Sdot Negev region east of Gaza.

One of the devices exploded as the sappers arrived at the scene, causing no injuries or damage, police said.

Later, Israeli aircraft attacked targets in the northern Gaza Strip for the second day in a row in response to explosives-laden balloons. There were no reports from Gaza on damage or casualties in the strikes.

Video published by Israel’s Kan news purported to show Hamas members leaving a post ahead of the strike.

The tactic of launching balloons carrying explosive and arson devices from Gaza into Israel emerged in 2018 as part of a series of protests and riots along the Strip’s border, known collectively as the March of Return. The simple and cheap method of attack by Palestinians has proved effective as Israeli security forces have struggled to counter the tactic, but had largely stopped over half a year ago.

On Wednesday evening, police sappers were dispatched to the border town of Sderot where a suspicious object attached to a cluster of balloons landed in a residential neighborhood.

It appeared to mark the renewal of the arson balloon attacks that torched thousands of acres of Israeli fields along the Gaza border in recent years.

A cluster of balloons carrying a suspected explosive device launched from the Gaza Strip that landed in southern Israel on January 16, 2020. (Courtesy)

That incident came after terrorists — reportedly belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group — also on Wednesday fired four mortar shells from Gaza toward southern Israel, causing neither injury nor damage, according to the army.

Two of the incoming projectiles were intercepted by the military’s Iron Dome air defense system. The other two appeared to strike open fields in Israel’s Sha’ar Hanegev region, east of northern Gaza.

Hours later, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of strikes on Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, fighter jets attacked several Hamas facilities, including a weapons production site and a military base.

The mortar attack shattered a period of relative quiet along the border. The past several months have seen relative calm along the border following a two-day flareup in November, though sporadic rocket attacks have persisted.

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