‘Not cannon fodder’: South Israel residents march to demand quiet on Gaza border
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Protesters release balloons, lie on ground to mimic attacks

‘Not cannon fodder’: South Israel residents march to demand quiet on Gaza border

As possible cease-fire takes shape, hundreds at Rabin Square protest say they won’t tolerate continuation of airborne arson attacks torching their fields

More than 200 Israelis from communities along the Gaza border converged on Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening. Protesters called on the government to act to ensure their security after months marred by rocket fire that has had them scrambling toward shelters on a regular basis, as well as incendiary kites and balloons that have torched thousands of acres of land.

Demonstrators held signs reading, “We are not cannon fodder,” “We are not human shields,” and “Wake up, government — the entire south is burning.”

They released balloons, to highlight the arson kite and balloon attacks from Gaza that have burned 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land in recent weeks, and lay on the ground to mimic procedures when rocket attacks find them too far from shelters.

After convening at Rabin Square, the demonstrators marched north up Ibn Gabirol St. under police escort. A similar protest was held last week in front of IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, also bringing hundreds to the coastal city.

Demonstrators hold up signs at a Tel Aviv rally demanding security for residents of Israel’s south on August 18, 2018. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Saturday’s rally came amidst the backdrop of reportedly intensifying negotiations for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

A day prior, a senior Hamas official said that negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal were in “the final stretch.”

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Residents of southern Israel demand quiet on the Gaza border, Tel Aviv, August 18, 2018. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

While no rockets have been launched at Israel in over a week as talks have progressed, residents of the coastal enclave have continued to release incendiary balloons toward bordering Israeli towns on a near daily basis.

However, prior to the relative period of quiet, Israel and Hamas engaged in some of the heaviest exchanges of fire since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. During a two-day flare-up earlier this month, Hamas fired over 150 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, which responded with about the same number of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza in recent months. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damage, according to Israeli officials.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze near the southern city of Sderot caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip on July 31, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Commenting on the ceasefire reports, Kibbutz Kfar Aza resident and protest organizer Alona Braun dismissed the Israeli effort.

“There isn’t any security,” she told Hadashot news. “Yesterday, six kites or balloons set fire to fields in our area. We demand lasting security, and as long as it is not guaranteed to us, we will continue to protest.”

Despite the deteriorating security situation in recent months, Braun told Hadashot that she has no intention to leave her community.

“This is my home, the Negev is an amazing area,” she said.

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