Firefighters battle blazes as Gaza terror balloons spark nine fires in southern Israel

Firefighters battle blazes as Jerusalem expects tensions to increase.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Incendiary balloons launched by Gaza terrorists sparked nine fires in southern Israel on Monday as firefighters battled blazes in the Sdot Negev and Eshkol region throughout the day.

Fire and Rescue Services investigators said they were investigating a tenth fire.

Local authorities in the Gaza area blamed the government for not taking stronger action against Hamas.

“The audacity of the terror groups to renew the terrorism of balloons and to burn our fields must be rooted out today. If it is not stopped today, we will find ourselves… [again] putting out fires and crying that our harvests have gone up in smoke,” said Gilad Yarkoni, the mayor of the Eshkol region, in a statement.

“I expect the government to act immediately to send a clear and unequivocal message to these terrorist organizations that they ought not continue with this despicable terrorism,” Yarkoni added.

According to Hebrew media reports, officials in Jerusalem and the IDF believe another confrontation with Hamas is inevitable.

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Although Israel eased certain restrictions on the Strip on Thursday, Palestinians clashed with soldiers along the Gaza border on Saturday. The clash was the first time since 2019 that Palestinian rioters approached the border fence in large numbers.

Hamas is pressuring Israel to restore a status quo that existed before before Operation Guardian of the Walls regarding the opening of Gaza’s border crossings and the transfer of goods and Qatari funds. Israel’s new government insists it won’t return to that status quo without the return of two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers from Hamas.

Meanwhile, Barel Shmuel, a Border Police officer who was shot by a Palestinian terrorist during Saturday’s riot remains in serious condition at Beersheva’s Soroka Hospital. Media reports indicated that the gunman was a member of Islamic Jihad. Israel launched retaliatory air strikes and is expanding the border barrier to increase the safety of security personnel.

In a sign of Cairo’s displeasure with Hamas, Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Monday.

It was the first time the Rafah crossing was shuttered during a workday since early this year. Egyptian authorities had kept it open during the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May.

According to the Egyptian officials, the closure was connected to Cairo’s efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. It was not immediately clear how long the closure would last, the officials said.

One of the officials said the move was meant to pressure Hamas because of the “differences” between Cairo and and the militant group over lack of progress in both the Egyptian-led, indirect talks with Israel, and also efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions.

Associated Press contributed to this report.