Arson balloons return, Defense Minister shuts Gaza crossing

As fire balloons returned to Israel’s south, Gantz ordered the Kerem Shalom crossing shut to everything but fuel and humanitarian supplies. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Just as the Mafia gave small business owners “the shakedown” by breaking a few windows, Hamas wants its money too, though instead of baseball bats it uses fire balloons and rockets.

The $150 million Qatar promised in March in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, paid in six installments, is about to run out. Hamas doesn’t want the spigot turned off. So it has restarted its arson attacks.

On Tuesday, a fire broke out near Kibbutz Erez, the IDF reports. The suspicion is it was caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip. Below can be seen footage of the fire.

On Monday, floating Molotov cocktails reached as far as Be’er Sheba and Ofakim. The balloons started more than 25 fires in Israel. Thousands of acres caught fire.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz in response ordered the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip closed except for fuel and humanitarian goods.

Earlier on Tuesday, sources in the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that a rocket test carried out by Hamas on Monday was meant to send a clear message to Israel that the current escalation is serious and that it is ready for any confrontation.

Israel’s Kan News reports that the pro-Qatari newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Jadid says that factions in Gaza, and Hamas in particular, want only a limited confrontation with Israel, but if mediators and Israel ignore Gaza’s demands, the conflict will worsen.

The IDF also reports that Hamas sources said that the situation will escalate as long as Israel doesn’t agree on terms for a ceasefire. Officially, Israel doesn’t have direct contacts with the terror group but has come to agreements through intermediaries.

As part of the escalation, on Sunday an Israeli construction crew came under attack.

They were working on the underground barrier that Israel had built along the entire 65-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip to prevent tunneling into Israel. When an IDF unit arrived to investigate the reports of gunfire, they, too, were fired upon. The IDF responded with mortars. There were no injuries on the Israeli side.

Since Thursday, the terror group has launched fire balloons into Israel’s south and issued threats. The smaller Islamic Jihad has also been saber-rattling. On Monday, tens of balloons were seen floating into Israel. The country has not yet found effective countermeasures to this low-technology form of attack.