Seven fires in south sparked by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza

07 May 2021

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ISRAEL/PALESTINE – Firefighting teams worked to extinguish at least seven fires on Friday in southern Israel that were caused by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip, the fire department said.

Fires burned in the Kissufim forest, the Be’eri forest and the Habesor riverbed, all nature reserves located near the border between Israel and Gaza, a spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund said.

One of the balloons landed on a greenhouse, causing slight damage, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Staff from the Jewish National Fund, the Fire and Rescue Services, and local security officers worked to extinguish the fires. The Fire and Rescue Services said as most of the fires were small, they were quickly controlled.

There were no reports of any injuries or danger to nearby towns.

In Gaza, the so-called “independent balloon unit,” Ibna Al-Zuwari, said on Friday it had launched balloon-borne incendiary devices toward Israel after it had warned a day earlier that “this is just the beginning.”

On Thursday at least six brush fires were ignited in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from Gaza.

On Monday, two balloons carrying suspected explosive devices that were apparently launched from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, local authorities said, in the first such attacks in months. The suspected bombs were found in agricultural fields in the community of Kfar Aza, east of Gaza City.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, though there have been relatively few launches of late as the Israeli government and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group have reportedly been negotiating a long-term ceasefire.

Earlier this month, terrorists in Gaza launched dozens of rockets at southern Israel. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, where they caused no injury or damage, but a few struck inside Israeli communities, with shrapnel hitting buildings and vehicles.

Also on Friday, three Palestinians opened fire toward a Border Police base in Israeli territory near the northern West Bank, with two of the attackers killed and one wounded, when officers on the scene returned fire.

The attacks come amid rising tensions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and along the Gaza border. Police bolstered their presence in Jerusalem on Friday ahead of prayers to mark the final weekend of Ramadan.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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