Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday called for the use of lethal force against Palestinians launching incendiary devices from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, saying that exercising restraint will only serve to escalate the ongoing arson attacks that have caused hundreds of brush fires in the southern part of the country in recent months.
The comments came as firefighters in the south on Monday fought a fresh rash of fires that were sparked by kites and balloons launched from Gaza, and as the military said it was stepping up actions meant to stop the daily attacks.
“The explosive kites and incendiary balloons are not child’s play; they are deadly weapons designed to kill our children,” Bennett said at the start of his Jewish Home party’s Knesset faction meeting. “They are a murderous weapon of Hamas.”
“Restraint in the face of the fire terror will lead to an escalation because the enemy interprets restraint as though he has a place where he is immune,” Bennett said.
“We need to stop shooting next to the target and start shooting at the target.”
Israel has thus far only fired warning shots at Gazans launching kites and balloons, apparently seeking to keep tensions from boiling over, but military officials have faced increasing pressure to put an end to the fires.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned the Hamas terrorist group that Israel would no longer tolerate the near-daily arson attacks.
“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” Liberman said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.
The last days have seen an uptick in Israeli air attacks on Gaza meant to put pressure on groups launching the kites and balloons.
Early Monday morning, the army said IDF warplanes struck nine Hamas targets in Gaza in response to numerous arson kit and balloon attacks by Palestinians a day earlier. The airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by Israel to deter Palestinians from flying the airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempt to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.
Hours later, Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel from the coastal enclave. The army said two of the rockets fell inside Israel, while the third appeared to fall short of the border. There were no reports of injuries on either side of the border.
The rockets were the first to be fired at Israel in over two weeks, breaking a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a daylong flareup in late May.
Balloons and kites caused fires in over 50 locations in Israel across the Gaza border since the weekend, destroying hundreds of acres of fields and nature reserves.