JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces for the first time fired a warning shot against a group of Gazan Palestinians preparing balloons with explosives on them to send into Israeli territory and start fires.
The warning shot was fired on Saturday afternoon, the IDF said in a statement. “The IDF views the use of incendiary balloons and kites with explosive devices attached to them with great severity and will operate to prevent their use,” it said in a statement.
At least 10 fires broke out in southern Israel on Saturday due to incendiary kites flown from Gaza, Ynet reported. Most of the fires were in the Be’eri and Kissufim area, according to the report. Damage was caused to crops and forest areas from the fires.
On Friday, some 45 fires broke out across the border area, a new record, according to Ynet. Some 60 firefighters and 20 fire trucks worked to put out the flames.
Since the end of March when the Gaza border protests first began, about 300 fires have been started on the Gaza border area, due to kites and balloons carrying explosives sent over the border from Gaza to southern Israel. About 5,000 dunams, or 1,235 acres of crops, mostly wheat, worth $1.4 million, has burned, Haaretz reported Sunday. In addition, at least 2,100 dunams, or nearly 520 acres of Jewish National Fund forests in the region have burned, and another up to 5,000 dunams or more than 1,200 acres in the Besor Forest Nature Reserve, as well as thousands of dunams of woodland and brushland in the area.
On Monday, a kite-making workshop will be held in the southern Israeli city of Sderot for area children. During the workshop, the children will hear stories, legends and facts about the development of the kite. Each child will make a kite and include on it a positive personal message. At the end of the workshop the children will fly their kites.
“As opposed to our neighbors from the Gaza Strip who have turned the wonderful hobby of flying kites into an act of terrorism, with terrible damage to agriculture, the children of Sderot and the surrounding communities are returning the kite to its source – from preparation to flying it into the sky and hoping that it will not fall. We are busy with positive things and optimism and the desire that our children always be happy. I also call on the children of Gaza to enjoy playing with kites and not be drawn astray by terrorist elements. Ours are kites of life, not death,” Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said in a statement.