Two balloon bombs from Gaza explode over southern Israeli community

Eshkol Regional Council says no injuries or damage from blasts, warns local residents to remain alert

Illustrative: An Israeli soldier stands near balloons released by Palestinian protesters from the Gaza Strip that landed inside Israel on October 19, 2018. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israeli soldier stands near balloons released by Palestinian protesters from the Gaza Strip that landed inside Israel on October 19, 2018. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Two explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and detonated above a community in the southern Israeli Eshkol region.

The blasts caused neither injury nor damage, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

“There are no special safety instructions for residents besides showing increased awareness and reporting all suspicious objects,” the council noted.

The incident came after the Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night, in response to balloons with explosives flown into Israel earlier that day. One of the bombs went off between two buildings in a Gaza border community, without causing injury or damage.

A balloon carrying a suspected explosive device from the Gaza Strip touches down in southern Israel on February 20, 2019. (Eshkol Security)

Over the past week there have been several similar exchanges, with the IDF attacking Hamas positions in response to balloons carrying explosives. Israel holds the terror group responsible for all attacks from the Palestinian enclave, as it is the de facto ruler of the territory. Hamas seized control of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007.

On Tuesday an Egyptian delegation traveled to the Gaza Strip to urge Hamas leaders to tamp down the attacks. They warned that “creating tensions on the border by launching incendiary balloons will bring the IDF to launch a broad military confrontation in the Strip,” according to a report from the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, which cited a senior Hamas source.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near-nightly riots and a return of airborne bomb and arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas at the end of last year.

In the nightly demonstrations, led by so-called “confusion units,” participants generally set off loud explosives, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

Damage caused to a home in the Eshkol region by an explosive device flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip by a balloon on February 27, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)

So far, no Israelis have been injured by the recent balloon attacks, though damage was caused to a home in the Eshkol region last week. Over the summer, balloon attacks caused fires in Israel that burned thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves as well as causing the deaths of livestock and other animals.

The border riots are part of the March of Return protests, which call for the right of the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Independence War to return to their homes and for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave. The protests have taken place weekly along the border since last March and have periodically escalated into major flare-ups between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.

Israel says Hamas is orchestrating the riots as cover to carry out attacks along the border which have included shootings, grenades and improvised explosives, Molotov cocktails, and rock-throwing.

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