Hamas agrees to halt balloon arson terror (for now)

The Egyptian government recently closed the Rafah border crossing with the Strip over fears of serious escalation between Gaza and Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Gaza-based terror groups including Hamas agreed to temporarily stop launching incendiary and explosive balloons at communities in southern Israel, Arabic language media reported Wednesday.

According to Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam, the decision came after intense pressure from Egyptian negotiators, who often serve as interlocutors between Israel and Hamas.

Tensions between Israel and Gaza have been rising, and a number of international actors, including Egypt, have been working to prevent another round of clashes after May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Hamas and other terror groups announced last week that Israel was failing to abide by the terms of the ceasefire that ended the May clash, claiming that hostilities were ended on conditions including the transfer of millions in Qatari funding into the Strip.

The Egyptian government recently closed the Rafah border crossing with the Strip over fears of a serious escalation between Gaza and Israel.

On Saturday, Barel Shmueli, a Special Forces sniper, was shot in the head at point blank range during violent protests at the Gaza Strip border wall.

After undergoing a number of emergency surgeries, he remains hospitalized in critical condition at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

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In mid-August, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a rocket at Israeli territory, the first since the end of May’s hostilities.

Over the past several weeks, arson balloons launched from Gaza sparked scores of fires across Israel’s southern communities.

“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, head of the Eshkol Regional Municipality, in a statement.

Last week, Israeli authorities opened the Erez border crossing for the first time in 18 months, permitting some 1,000 Gazan traders to enter Israel.

Israel also announced it would allow medical and telecommunications supplies into the Strip.