ISRAEL – A suspected incendiary device attached to a cluster of balloons landed in a military base in southern Israel on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Police sappers were dispatched to the scene and neutralized the device with no injuries or damage to the military compound, according to an army statement.
Police said the device landed in an open area where no soldiers were residing at the time.
For the past year, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been launching balloons carrying explosives and incendiary devices into southern Israel, sparking fires that burned thousands of acres of agricultural fields, forests and grasslands. This spring, farmers in southern Israel were encouraged to harvest their wheat early in order to prevent their fields from being burned in such attacks.
On Thursday, at least three brush fires were started in the area around the Gaza Strip, apparently sparked by incendiary balloons that were floated across the border, local officials said.
The weekly border protest at the Gaza border was canceled on Friday due to soaring temperatures and the Ramadan fast, the protest organizing committee announced.
Retired defense official Amos Gilad told Army Radio that the Hamas terror group made the decision so the situation would remain calm while the Eurovision Song Contest take place in Tel Aviv.
On Wednesday, some 10,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip, with rioters burning tires, throwing rocks, setting off explosives and sending balloon-borne incendiary devices into southern Israel, starting at least nine fires.
Wednesday’s protests commemorated the 71st anniversary of what the Arab world calls the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” surrounding the establishment of Israel, in reference to the displacement and dispossession that Palestinians experienced during the Jewish state’s War of Independence in 1948-1949.
Israel responded with various riot-dispersal measures. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, some 65 Palestinians were wounded to varying degrees along the border throughout the day, one of them seriously.
This year’s Nakba demonstrations came 10 days after a massive flare-up between Israel and the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups in the Gaza Strip in which terrorists fired nearly 700 rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank guided missiles at southern and central Israel, killing four people. The IDF struck back, hitting over 300 Hamas and PIJ targets, including several rocket-launching teams. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the fighting, most of them members of terror groups.
After two days of fighting, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations brokered a ceasefire agreement — one that Israel has not officially acknowledged, but has kept — under which Jerusalem agreed to a number of economic and humanitarian concessions in exchange for calm in the Gaza Strip.