Gaza’s arson balloons spark 60 brush fires in southern Israel

“Our lives’ work is burning here, gone in the blink of an eye,” said Ronen, a local farmer. “And from the state of Israel? Deafening silence.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Incendiary balloons launched from Gaza sparked at least 60 brush fires in Gaza-adjacent Israeli communities on Tuesday, according to a report from Israel Hayom.

Residents of southern Israeli communities near Gaza have endured rocket attacks launched by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip for years.

Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups fired some 800 rockets and mortars into Israel in 2019, the majority of them directed at Gaza-adjacent communities.

While the threat from the rockets has been partially mitigated by the Iron Dome missile defense system, residents of southern communities are now struggling to manage the onslaught of incendiary balloons that have sparked fires in both urban and agricultural areas.

“We’ve become pawns caught between Hamas and the Defense Ministry,” said Ronen, a local farmer. “They do whatever they want with us.”

“Hamas wants to send a message to Israel regarding the transfer of funds from Qatar and the promotion of economic projects,” he told Israel Hayom.

“Hamas is not recognized by the Defense Ministry and policymakers in Israel, so they’re making us prisoners in their game, sending these explosive balloons.”

“Our lives’ work is burning here, gone in the blink of an eye. And from the State of Israel? Deafening silence.”

Danny Rahamim, Kibbutz Nahal Oz’s head of agriculture, said that in past years, wheat fields have been significantly damaged by fires caused by incendiary balloons.

“Fortunately, our emergency crews have become skilled at putting out fires, but there is always considerable damage to farmers and crops,” he said.

“Two years ago, more than 1,000 hectares of wheat were burned. It is serious economic damage.”

In response to the barrage of incendiary balloons, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip on Monday.

“In the South, Hamas is continuing to enable explosive balloon attacks to be launched into the State of Israel. We are not prepared to accept that,” said Gantz.

“Israel and the IDF will react forcibly against any infringement on our sovereignty and any harm that comes to Israeli civilians.”

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the IDF struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, destroying observation posts and underground infrastructure.

Senior Hamas officials told Israel Hayom on Monday that the incendiary balloons and rocket attacks will continue until Israel acquiesces to its demands, including ending the naval blockade of Gaza.