Rivlin calls on Abbas to condemn Gaza kite attacks

President also wishes PA leader happy Ramadan and successful recovery after hospitalization

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the annual memorial service for the victims of the Altalena attack, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the annual memorial service for the victims of the Altalena attack, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

President Reuven Rivlin called Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and asking him to condemn the airborne arson attacks on the Gaza border and attempts to cross into Israel.

“The terror coming from Gaza is a problem for both sides and we should hear your voice on this matter,” Rivlin said, according to Hebrew media reports. “We have to see how to stop the arson and infiltration of the border fence.”

The president also wished Abbas a happy Ramadan and successful recovery following his hospitalization last month.

The PA’s official Wafa news agency only reported on the latter part of the conversation.

Abbas was admitted on May 20 to the Istishari Arab Hospital near Ramallah in the West Bank with complications following an ear operation, including high fever.

Officials later confirmed he was being treated for pneumonia.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, flanked by his two sons Yasser (L) and Tarek (R), gives a short statement before leaving a hospital near Ramallah in the West Bank on May 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Fires caused by kites and helium balloons rigged with incendiary devices or attached to burning rags and launched over the border have become almost daily occurrences for residents of southern Israel since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border at the end of March.

Israeli officials have said that since the start of the protests at the Gaza border, there have been more than 200 fires in the Gaza periphery, destroying some 17,500 dunams (4,300 acres) of land, the majority of it in nature reserves and parks.

According to the Nature and Parks Authority, approximately 10,000 dunams in parks and reserves in southern Israel were burned. Though a spokesperson for the authority said investigations were still underway to determine exactly how much of that was caused by incendiary kites and balloons, and how much was from other sources.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that funds be withheld from the Palestinian Authority to compensate Israeli farmers living on the Gaza border who had their agricultural lands destroyed.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office didn’t disclose how much would be deducted. Amir Dan, a Tax Authority official, told Army Radio that agricultural damage alone stood at NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) and that damage caused to nature reserves and other land could drive up the figure.

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