JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military struck a vehicle belonging to the leader of the terror cell in Gaza that sends burning kites and balloons over the border to southern Israel, leading to arson fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural lands and woodlands.
No one was injured in the early Sunday morning air strike, according to reports.
“The strike was in response to the series of arson and explosive kites and balloons that have been launched into Israel,” the IDF said in a statement also posted on Twitter.
“Recently, the IDF has warned numerous times against these launches. These are acts of terror that endanger Israeli residents living in southern Israel. The IDF is determined to continue to act with increasing intensity against these acts of terror. The Hamas terror organization is responsible for everything that happens in and from the Gaza Strip, and it will suffer the consequences,” the IDF also said.
Later on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces fired warning shots at a group of Gazan Palestinians preparing to launch incendiary kites and balloons towards Israel. The warning shots came a day after a similar warning shot was fired, injuring two operatives.
Some 20 fires were ignited in southern Israel on Saturday due to such kites and balloons, damaging crops, according to reports. At least 11 fires were started on Friday, the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Fitr, which comes after the month-long Ramadan fast, the day that Hamas had threatened to launch 5,000 burning kites and balloons at Israel.
On Thursday, Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Brig. Gen. Dedi Simchi said kites launched from Gaza had caused 412 blazes over 75 days, leading to $550,000 cost overrun for the service’s budget, Haaretz reported. Damage has been estimated so far at about 1,235 acres of wheat, avocado orchards, jojoba and agricultural equipment, at a cost of about $2 million.