A KITE flies over the Gaza border into an area where incendiary kites and balloons have caused major fires in southern Israel..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
At least 10 families living in Gaza border communities have decided to leave the area following the repeated rounds of violence between Israel and terror groups in the Hamas-run coastal enclave, Channel 13 reported on Friday.
According to the report, the families arrived in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council last year and have told the council that they will be leaving this summer due to the security situation.
“These are dramatic numbers that we haven’t seen since Operation Protective Edge,” the report continued, adding that there is a fear that more families will follow suit and leave the area.
Approximately 70,000 Israelis reside in over 50 communities in the Gaza border area. There had been a marked increase of people moving to the area over the past five years following Operation Protective Edge in 2016 and the completion the year before of the railroad linking Tel Aviv with Beersheba with stops in Sderot, Ofakim and Netivot.
But during the past year, there have been 10 rounds of violent conflict, causing residents to interrupt their daily lives and remain close to bomb shelters since they only have some 15 seconds to find shelter from rocket and mortar fire. The last round of violence in early May saw over 700 rockets fired towards southern Israel, which killed four civilians.
The Great March of Return protests, which began on March 30, 2018, have seen over half a million people violently demonstrating at various points along the Gaza Strip security fence demanding an end to the 12-year-long blockade that began when Hamas seized power in a 2005 coup. Between several thousand to 45,000 protesters have demonstrated every Friday.
Rioters routinely burn tires, and target IDF forces along the border hurling stones, and firing marbles, ball bearings and other projectiles using high-velocity slingshots. Less frequent violence includes throwing grenades and improvised explosive devices (including military-grade explosives) at troops.
Palestinians launching kites, balloons and condoms carrying Molotov cocktails or improvised explosive and incendiary devices have posed a problem for Israel since the beginning of the protests along the Gaza border fence.
The devices have caused over 2,000 separate fires resulting in over 35,000 dunams being burnt. According to the IDF, this has included over 13,000 dunams of nature reserves, and over 11,000 dunams of forest.
On Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met with the heads of the Gaza communities and told them the relative calm along the border has been proving effective, with a decrease in incendiary aerial balloons launched towards southern Israel and a decrease in violent riots along the fence.
“The reduction in the number of balloons and the decrease in the number of violent incidents on the fence is not coincidental,” Kochavi was quoted by Mako as saying, adding that while the IDF “prefers to give this arrangement a chance... we cannot let the balloon terror continue.”
In recent weeks, the IDF has responded to incendiary balloons by reducing the fishing zone off of the Gaza coast instead of by striking those who launch them.
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