Hamas, Islamic Jihad claim Israel has exaggerated incendiary kite threat

Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza claim to have fired about 300 burning kites since the return marches began at the end of March, a number Israeli sources claim is understated.

Fire in Sapir College from Gaza terror kites, June 5, 2018 (Tal Lev Ram)
Analysts have been discussing the latest weapon employed by young Palestinian protesters against Israel: multiple burning kites that they release from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The kites have already caused significant damage to agricultural fields and natural reserves, which have been consumed in a number of fires.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has described the burning kites set off from the enclave as “the real nightmare that must be treated.” To that end, Israel has recently developed a new technology to fight the new tactic, using a laser system to take out the kites before they can land in Israeli territory.
Hazem Qasem, a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, told The Media Line that the humanitarian situation in the enclave has led to the weaponization of a child’s toy carrying a lethal payload. “It’s the unprecedented situation that cannot be tolerated,” he stressed.
He explained that Gaza suffers from a lack of drinking water, electricity, and jobs. “These kites are a public tool, spontaneously set off by the residents of Gaza, to peacefully [sic] protest their plight.”
Qasem added that the “Israeli government is embarrassed” because it has failed to deal with the “Return Marches,” resorting to the use of excessive force against young protestors.
“We are used to Israel responding violently to any kind of resistance,” he said. “Israel has killed about one hundred Palestinians and injured thousands in the marches, while no harm whatsoever was done to Israeli soldiers manning the border.”
The kite launches began in April, shortly after the residents of Gaza organized the marches, which are now weekly demonstrations. Protestors are demanding the right of return to land lost by Palestinians when Israel was established in 1948.
These protests reached a crescendo in March and April, turning bloody as Israeli soldiers responded to attempts to breach the security fence. They killed more than one hundred Palestinians and injured over a thousand. Israel's response provoked widespread international condemnation and growing anger within the Gaza Strip.
Dahoud Shihab, an Islamic Jihad Spokesperson in Gaza, told The Media Line that Israel is overreacting to the kites. “The aim is to create excuses for a military escalation against the Return Marches,” he said.
The kites, he claimed, are set-off by Palestinian individuals who are not part of an official political campaign. “The Israeli occupation tries to show the world that these kites come as part of an organized effort. That is false,” he stated.
He argued that Palestinians have the right to use any form of peaceful protest to raise their voices against their unfair situation.
“These kites carry pictures of Palestinian martyrs, prisoners and injured kids, women and the elderly,” Shihab said. Israeli officials note that the kites carry incendiary devices and, in some cases, explosive packs that have already resulted in the loss of hundreds of agricultural acres inside Israeli territory.
Israel’s Channel 2 television reported that firefighters and Israeli farmers were severely affected by the spread of fires. Their inability to control them caused losses ranging from 3 million to 4 million shekels.
Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza claim to have fired about 300 burning kites since the return marches began at the end of March, a number Israeli sources claim is understated.
In another incident, Israeli firefighters evacuated 150 tourists from a nearby nature reserve.
“I don’t understand what the Palestinians can gain from launching these kites,” Gad Shemron, an Israeli political analyst, told The Media Line. “Why don’t they send burning balloons to Egypt, too?”
He explained that the latest move by Palestinian protestors in Gaza is senseless as it will not achieve anything on the ground. “Egypt is blocking the Strip, so why don’t they attack Egypt? It’s choking off Gaza more than Israel is?
“Hamas needs to agree to sit down with Israel and make peace,” he added, pointing out that Israel is willing to act to stop the catastrophic situation there. “Hamas is divided into two groups: One wants to make a peace agreement to help the people of Gaza, and the other wants to destroy Israel regardless of what is happening to the residents of Gaza.”
A report last year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe noted that as a result of the blockade on Gaza “some 75,000 people are still displaced [in the territory] and 43% of Gaza’s population is unemployed, a figure which rises to 60% among young people.
In all, 80% of the population relies on humanitarian assistance,” according to a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It added that the Strip risks becoming uninhabitable by 2020.