Incendiary balloon sparks fires in southern Israel as Hamas calls for new attacks

Residents living in close proximity to Gaza say that not all attacks from across the border are being reported.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

A balloon-borne incendiary device dispatched from the Gaza Strip started two fires Tuesday in the Kissufim Forest near the Gazan border with Israel. It was the first such incident reported since November. The fires were fairly small and put out quickly.

In addition, a firecracker attached to a balloon landed in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council area near the border and was neutralized by a sapper, police said.

The incidents followed a directive from Hamas approving a renewal of these attacks in light of what the terror group says is a stalemate in talks on lifting the closure of the Strip.

“The Israeli communities near the Gaza border are also a part of the Jewish State,” said the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Gadi Yarkoni.

“During these days when those who are running for the Knesset [in the April election] talk, tweet, hold gatherings to get our votes, I turn to you, the citizens of Israel: Ask them what their policy is regarding Gaza and the balloon terrorism. Because the Gaza border communities are a part of Israel. Today it’s us, tomorrow it will be you,” said Yarkoni.

In January, a cluster of balloons attached to an explosive device was located in the Gezer Field, near the Ramat Negev Regional Council. The police neutralized the device and no casualties were reported.

Local residents charge that there have been more violent incidents in the border area but that they are not being reported by the IDF.

“We who live in the area, and whoever experiences these incidents up close, know that these are false announcements,” says Merav Cohen of Ein Hashlosha, a kibbutz in the western Negev, referring to reactions by the military spokesperson’s office of no violence when “we hear these incidents and sometimes are a part of them, against our will,” she complains.

‘There are balloons all the time’

“There are balloons all the time…and it is denied, or not explained clearly,” Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim near the border told World Israel News.

Cohen said there was an air attack from Gaza earlier this week. “The residents heard it very clearly,” she said, but the IDF insisted that no projectile had been fired.

She told World Israel News that she has spoken to the military spokesperson’s office and that they voiced regret over any feeling of mistrust on the part of the residents, although they insisted that they report only the truth.

Nineteen Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were injured in clashes during a protest that took place on Sunday along Israel’s border with Gaza.