A new era of terrorism and warfare on the border with Gaza has taken on the form of seemingly harmless objects: kites and balloons.
A steady stream of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border with Gaza over the past couple of months has silently destroyed thousands of acres of farmland causing millions of shekels worth of damage over the last few months.
And, despite high-tech detection systems, Israel hasn’t been able to stop them.
Israel is fighting back with sanctions against the coastal enclave. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new measures on Monday intended to pressure Hamas — the ruling faction in the Gaza Strip — to stop the kite warfare. Netanyahu said the Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed to all but the transfer of food and medicine into Gaza. Clothing, plastics and construction material will no longer be allowed into Gaza and exports will also be banned.
The limiting of goods transferred into Gaza will further strain the dilapidated Gaza economy.
“Netanyahu’s approval of additional measures to intensify the siege and prevent the entry of materials and goods to Gaza is a new crime against humanity,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Islamic Jihad said the step was a “new declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” and vowed retaliation.
The crossing would remain closed as long as Palestinians continue to launch these flaming weapons into Israel, the IDF said.
Since the announcement on Monday afternoon, however, some 33 fires were sparked in Israel by these devices.
“In light of this situation in which the Hamas terror group is taking advantage of the residents of the Strip and launching incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at the communities in the Gaza periphery… these steps are being taken,” the army said. “If this phenomenon continues, these steps will continue and even get worse.”
Palestinians have regularly demonstrated at the Gaza border since March rising to a crescendo in May to coincide with the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem. Since then, demonstrations have simmered down somewhat in size, but the kites and balloons have continued flying over the border.
Ynet News reported that nearly 700 fires have been sparked in Israeli communities located near Gaza with thousands of acres of open land and agricultural produce consumed in the past 100 days.
The IDF has drones that are able to detect the devices but cannot intercept them in the air. Hence, the army has deployed forces across Gaza border communities aiming to prevent the fire from spreading after the devices are detected in their flight.
While thankful that nearby communities and homes haven’t been damaged, firefighters have been fighting blazes nearly around the clock for the past three months.
Also, because many of the kites and balloons have had explosive charges attached to them, police launched a campaign urging children to stay away from them.