As grenade lands near greenhouse, Hamas vows arson won’t stop until Israel yields to demands

New demands include supplying ventilators and corona test kits, following a re-emergence of the pandemic in Gaza.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A grenade attached to a large balloon sent from the Gaza Strip landed Thursday morning near the greenhouses of Moshav Ohad in the Eshkol region and was safely defused by a sapper.

The airborne attack was one of hundreds of arson and explosive balloon launches that have occurred over the last three weeks, as Hamas attempts again to force Israel to make concessions in return for quiet.

Qatar’s official envoy to the Gaza Strip, Dr. Mohammed al-Emadi, is currently in the coastal enclave to mediate the negotiations. At least one reason Doha is involved is that one of Hamas’ key demands is additional financial aid from Qatar, which Jerusalem would have to allow.

A new demand was added Wednesday to the list al-Emadi is discussing with Israel. Hamas wants Israel to transfer COVID-19 testing kits and ventilators, as it finds itself fighting a recurrence of the coronavirus pandemic.

The arson balloons have caused about 500 fires so far in Israel’s southern region – an average of 25 a day. To cut down the response time and subsequent damage caused by the blazes, the complement of regular fire-fighting crews has been greatly augmented.

IDF soldiers, employees of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, the organization that planted much of the forestland now being destroyed, and inspectors of the Nature and Parks Authority have joined the fight, racing from one blaze to the next.

“If you get there quickly, you can also put it out with a pail of water or a blower,” Ezra Sasson, the Parks Authority’s director of the northern Negev region, said to an Israel Hayom reporter who was observing the fire-fighting work Wednesday. “I have a blower, and in such vegetation, if it’s not trees, a blower is enough.”

The fires have caused dozens of hectares to go up in smoke, and the number will reach triple digits soon if an agreement isn’t reached with Hamas. But the tactic is not a game-changer, Sasson said in the report.

“By and large I can say that the balloons won’t defeat us. It’s true, people are making a big fuss over it, but at the end we have an excellent solution. Thirty fires a day, and the response comes in zero time.”

It is not a reason to go into Gaza, he said in response to a question on the subject.

“I prefer to put out fires and not that we enter Gaza and soldiers get hurt,” he said.

It does make him “sad” to see beautiful nature sites turned black with ash, and he noted that the animals who live in the region are certainly suffering.

“All wildlife like turtles, these fires just consume them,” he said.