IDF reports dramatic decrease in fires in southern Israel over past year

It took an average of 5 minutes for firefighters to get to the scene in 2019 compared to an average of 8 minutes in 2018.

July 11, 2019 02:24
2 minute read.
IDF reports dramatic decrease in fires in southern Israel over past year

A fire burns in scrubland on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near kibbutz Gevaram. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The number of hectares ravaged by fires caused by aerial incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip has dropped, the IDF said Wednesday.

In the past year, a total of 140 hectares have been burnt in southern Israel, a significant decrease from 3,400 hectares burnt in 2018.

According to figures released by the IDF there has also been a drop in the number of fires per day – two fires daily since the beginning of 2019, compared to nine fires per day in 2018. At the peak, there were only 10 fires per day in 2019 versus 30 fires per day last year.

It took an average of five minutes for firefighters to get to the scene in 2019 compared to an average of eight minutes in 2018.
Firefighters responded to a total of 977 fires in 2018, the majority occurring in the month of June with 623 fires, followed by May with 301 and 53 in April. A total of 190 fires broke out in southern Israel in the first half of 2019, with 124 fires in June, 63 in May and six in April.

For the past year, thousands of Gazans have been protesting along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in Great March of Return demonstrations calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

During the violent weekly protests, Gazans have been burning tires and hurling stones, grenades and other explosive devices towards IDF troops.

Gazans have also launched countless aerial incendiary devices into southern Israel, mostly simple devices like balloons or kites with burning embers and rags soaked in car oil.

Explosive balloons and condoms have also been launched towards Israel, landing on major highways, trees and even in playgrounds or private yards in Sderot and other smaller Gaza vicinity communities.

When the aerial devices first started to appear in Israeli skies the army allowed them to land, unsure what damage could come of them. But as more and more flew in and the fields and forests of southern Israel went up in flames, the IDF deployed drones to cut the cords of the kites or intercept the balloons and called up reservists in the Home Front Command to battle the blazes alongside civilian firefighters.

The military also fired warning shots by unmanned aerial vehicles towards groups of Palestinians preparing the incendiary devices in an attempt to deter them from being launched. For the past few months, the IDF has responded by incendiary balloons by reducing the fishing zone off of the Gaza coast instead of by striking those who launch them.

In mid-June, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met with the heads of the Gaza communities and told them that the relative calm along the border has been proving effective, with a decrease in incendiary aerial balloons and a decrease in violent March of Return riots.

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