A Palestinian poses as he prepares a kite before trying to fly it with incendiaries over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018. .
(photo credit: SAID KHATIB / AFP)
The Israel Air Force targeted three cells launching incendiary balloons across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, just hours after it struck the vehicle of one of the leaders responsible for sending incendiary kites and balloons from the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF said later in the day.
“In recent days, the IDF warned and carried out several attacks near the cells responsible for the arson and destruction of lands in Israel. These are terror attacks that endanger the residents of southern Israel,” the army said.
“The IDF is determined to continue acting with increasing force against these terror activities, for as long as it takes and with a variety of tools. The Hamas terror organization is responsible for everything that happens in and from the Gaza Strip, and it will suffer the consequences.”
Palestinian media reported that the vehicle, attacked by the IAF early Sunday morning in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City, was empty.
Gazans have been protesting along the border with Israel since March 30 as part of what organizers have called the “Great March of Return.” Demonstrators have been throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and rocks toward Israeli troops and flying incendiary kites into Israeli territory, destroying over 2,500 acres of forest, nature reserves and agricultural fields.
On Thursday, reports out of Gaza said that Palestinians planned to launch 5,000 incendiary balloons and kites
toward Israel to mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr.
The group calls itself “The Sons of Zouari” – referring to Hamas’s chief drone expert and engineer Muhammad Zouari, who was assassinated in Tunisia in an operation blamed on the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency in 2016. It pledged to expand the range of its incendiary devices to 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.
Despite that threat, Friday saw the lowest protest turnout by Palestinians congregating at the Israel-Gaza fence since the protests began on March 30.
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Amid the ongoing launching of incendiary aerial devices from Gaza and high temperatures, more than 20 fires broke out across the South on Saturday. On Sunday, another 17 fires were ignited, with teams of firefighters battling the blazes.
IDF policy until now had been to fire warning shots and prevent incendiary balloons and kites from entering Israeli airspace. But military officials have hinted that the army’s response may be escalated beyond merely firing warning shots – amid growing political pressure to carry out direct strikes to contain the threat posed by these devices.
Over the weekend the Israeli army said it carried out three drone strikes near residents of the Gaza Strip who were preparing and launching incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, one strike on Saturday wounded two Palestinians.
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