Suspected incendiary balloons from Gaza land in southern Israel
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Suspected incendiary balloons from Gaza land in southern Israel

Incident continues recent spate of balloons attached to explosives, as Israel warns Hamas of forceful response if it tries to disrupt World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem

A bundle of balloons attached to a model plane found near Neot Hovav on January 21, 2020. (Israel Police)
A bundle of balloons attached to a model plane found near Neot Hovav on January 21, 2020. (Israel Police)

Suspected incendiary balloons apparently launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip were found in Israel on Tuesday, continuing the recent resurgence of the tactic after it had been abandoned for months.

Police said a bundle of balloons attached to a model airplane landed in an open field near the community of Neot Hovav, south of Beersheba.

A police sapper arrived and “took care of the object,” the statement said.

It wasn’t clear from the statement whether the balloons were attached to an explosive device, as has happened several times this week.

Channel 13 reported Monday that Israeli officials believe Palestinian terror group Hamas is behind the spate of balloon-borne bombs and incendiary devices launched into Israel in recent days, as the group seeks to signal it is unhappy with the slow progress of negotiations for a long-term ceasefire.

Officials have assessed that the group could move to undermine the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, to be held in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday — either by increasing balloon attacks at Israeli communities or by allowing other smaller groups to fire rockets into Israel, the report said.

Security preparations at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on January 20, 2020, for a state dinner for world leaders attending the World Holocaust Forum events marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. (Courtesy: Alon Fargo)

The report said Israel had warned Hamas that it will respond forcefully to any attempt to disrupt the summit of world leaders, and will not hesitate to strike the terror group in the Gaza Strip in response to such provocations, regardless of the intensified international focus.

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is scheduled to take place on January 23 at Yad Vashem in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

In recent days, terrorists have flown numerous bombs and incendiary devices into Israeli territory from the Palestinian enclave with the aid of helium-filled balloons, at times prompting retaliatory strikes from the Israel Defense Forces.

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.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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