Police sappers neutralize balloon-borne incendiary device near Kibbutz Nir Oz
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Police sappers neutralize balloon-borne incendiary device near Kibbutz Nir Oz

Discovery is latest in string of incidents involving balloons bearing explosives launched from Gaza

Balloons carrying an incendiary device were found near Kibbutz Nir Oz on Saturday, August 8, 2020. Photo via Eshkol Regional Council
Balloons carrying an incendiary device were found near Kibbutz Nir Oz on Saturday, August 8, 2020. Photo via Eshkol Regional Council

A bunch of balloons bearing a suspected explosive device launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel was found by residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz in a nearby agricultural field, the Eshkol Regional Council said on Saturday morning. No injuries were reported.

The council said police sappers were on the scene to neutralize the device, which appeared to be some sort of grenade. “Following the incident, we would like to once again emphasize: in an incident where a suspicious object has been identified, one should move away from the scene, not touch anything and report it to security personnel immediately,” the council said in a statement.

The discovery was the latest in a string of incidents involving incendiary devices launched from the Palestinian enclave. The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from Gaza toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, though there have been relatively few launches of late as the Israeli government and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group have reportedly been negotiating a long-term ceasefire.

On Thursday, Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip after terrorists in the enclave allegedly launched a number of balloons carrying suspected explosives and incendiary devices into Israel earlier in the day, the military said.

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli airstrike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early on August 3, 2020. Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on Hamas facilities in Gaza after a rocket was fired from the Hamas-controlled enclave towards the Jewish state and intercepted by Iron Dome, the IDF said.(SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces said the retaliatory strike targeted “underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip.”

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the territory of the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory throughout the day,” the IDF said in a statement Thursday.

Following the strikes, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Gaza-based terror groups against attacking Israel. “The State of Israel won’t accept any violation of its sovereignty or harm to residents of the south,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “If the terror organizations still don’t understand, whoever tests Israel will be hit hard.”

At least three brush fires were ignited in southern Israel on Thursday by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from Gaza, the fire department said, sparking concern over a possible return of the phenomenon.

Balloons carrying an incendiary device floats after being released near Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp, along the Israel-Gaza border fence, on February 10, 2020. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Another balloon that carried a suspected explosive device was found near the city of Arad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the coastal enclave. It was located by police and detonated in a controlled explosion, police said. The origin of the balloon was not known.

Throughout the day, several blazes were reported in the Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol Regions, northeast and east of the Gaza Strip, respectively. The fires were quickly brought under control. No injuries were reported as a result of the blazes.

An investigation into the cause of the fires determined that they were sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices, the southern division of Fire and Rescue Services said.

Thursday’s strike in Gaza was the second round of escalation in less than a week, marking a slight uptick in tensions on the border, which had seen an extended period of calm.

On Sunday evening, terrorists in the Strip fired a rocket toward southern Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF said.

In response, the IDF targeted several Hamas sites in central and southern Gaza, including a cement factory used in the construction of underground infrastructure and “underground facilities used by the Hamas terror group,” the military said.

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