Playing with fire

Palestinians along the border with Gaza began using kites attached to incendiary devices as a simple but devastating weapon.

November 11, 2018 21:11
3 minute read.
Park in Gaza City

Palestinian children swing at a park in Gaza City November 9, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)


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More than six months ago, The Jerusalem Post ran an editorial warning of cases of agricultural terrorism and what was then a still relatively new form of attack for Hamas in Gaza.

Palestinians along the border with Gaza began using kites attached to incendiary devices as a simple but devastating weapon, cutting them loose to land in the fields of neighboring Jewish communities in the Negev.

Since then, the “fire intifada” has grown to include not only kites, but balloons, helium-filled condoms and a couple of recorded cases of kestrel falcons being tied to incendiary devices. Thousands of hectares of crops and trees have been destroyed by means of these low-tech weapons. The fires have taken a huge toll on wildlife – both animals killed outright in the fires and those whose habitats have been destroyed. Agricultural produce and property have been destroyed. The constant fires have also produced a health hazard for residents of the western Negev area in what is now being called “The Gaza Envelope.”

Last week, schoolchildren from the South, who have never really known what living in peace and quiet means, marched to Jerusalem in an act intended to draw attention to their plight.

While the fate of Palestinian children in Gaza is well covered in the international media, the suffering and trauma of the Israeli children from the South goes almost unnoticed.

On Friday, a day after the youth ended their march outside the Knesset, the absurdity of the current situation in Gaza reached new heights.

Images of suitcases stuffed with dollars being brought into Gaza by a Qatari envoy, via an Israeli crossing, caught public attention. The money, some $15 million, was intended for Hamas to pay salaries, although it is of course hard to monitor where all the cash actually ended up. It is slightly easier to follow the path of the tons of food, fuel and other provisions and humanitarian aid which are transported to Gaza via Israeli crossings on a daily basis.

The distribution of money was criticized by the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah, which has been withholding funds in an attempt to depose its arch-enemy Hamas, and regain control over the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, many Israeli commentators and politicians, from both Left and Right, raised the image of Mafia-style “protection money” – that the millions of dollars were meant to buy quiet.

It didn’t work. On Friday, a Palestinian was killed after he threw an explosive charge at IDF forces guarding the border, and two more were arrested for cutting the fence and entering Israel.

Even more seriously, on Friday night, an infiltrator from Gaza crossed the border and is suspected of setting a greenhouse on fire in Moshav Netiv Ha’asara. The owner of the greenhouse told news outlets that the damage amounted to hundreds of thousands of shekels, including equipment and seeds for the crops.

Something even more precious was lost: the already precarious sense of security. Clearly, if an infiltrator can reach a greenhouse and set it on fire, he can also reach local homes, kindergartens, schools or the “children’s houses” where local kibbutz youngsters spend most of their time. He could also attack – or abduct – a soldier or a civilian.

According to the public broadcaster KAN, the man – who was arrested – had infiltrated into Israel many times before. Not only does this possibly show that Israel has lost its deterrence, but one needs to consider whether the man was hoping to be caught and imprisoned, or be killed and become a “martyr.” After all, some of the Qatari funds are expected to go to the families of Palestinian prisoners and “shahids.”

Israel is taking a huge risk by letting cash from Qatar reach Gaza in such huge and untraceable amounts. Qatar has not proven to be a moderating force, and the money has failed as of yet to create calm. As the children from the South are trying to tell us, it should not be considered normal or acceptable for there to be low-level attacks and fires. As every child knows, playing with fire is dangerous.

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