WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday castigated Hamas for launching incendiary balloons from Gaza.
Since protests broke out in the coastal enclave last spring, Palestinian protesters have begun unleashing explosive balloons over the border that erupt over Israeli communities. Those detonations have caused several fires in Israeli towns near the Gaza periphery.
Hamas sent out more of these balloons hours earlier, amid violent clashes at the border, as more than 100 Palestinians were reported wounded while demonstrators protested close to the fence, burning tires and throwing rocks at Israeli military positions.
“Sick-minded terrorists using toys as weapons,” tweeted Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s special envoy for Middle East peace. “It’s not enough to send projectiles from Gaza into Israel to destroy & kill directly. Hamas endangers Israeli kids with balloons & kites. Hamas should be ashamed.”
Greenblatt, who before working in Washington was an attorney with the Trump organization, was commenting on an Israeli Defense Forces tweet that showed a picture of the balloons.
“No parent should have to tell their children that balloons can kill,” the IDF said. “Terrorists in
#Gaza just launched arson balloons into #Israel. In response, an IDF aircraft fired towards the squad.”
Israeli defense officials said Friday’s was the quietest protests since the “March of Return” began on March 30. Thousands of protesters attended the demonstration. The IDF sent text messages on Friday to residents of the coastal strip, warning them not to approach the fence, Palestinians said.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 130 Palestinians were hurt, including 77 hit by live fire. According to their estimations, Hamas may have stationed armed men close to the fence to try to minimize the violence, the Ynet news site reported.
Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.
Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.
Greenblatt’s tweet Friday comes as the administration is preparing to unveil it’s long awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the near future.
US President Donald Trump said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month that he favored a two-state outcome to the conflict, but also that he was okay with any arrangement the parties worked out, and that he hoped to publish the proposal before January.