After 100 days of flaming kites and explosive balloons burning the South, many are wondering how close Israel is to returning to war in Gaza.The flames have wreaked havoc on a once-beautiful landscape, leaving scorched fields and forests destroyed by incendiary devices. Residents of the South are upset, frustrated and weary.Is yet another battle with Gaza the answer? There is public pressure on politicians – and some, like Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have called for an army operation against Hamas to stop the kites and balloons from continuing to burn southern Israel.According to a report by Channel 10 on Tuesday, Israel has given Hamas via Egyptian intermediaries until Friday to stop the incendiary aerial devices. If not, the report said, Israel will have no other choice but to launch a military offensive.In response, Hamas is said to have instructed its fighters not to launch any more incendiary devices toward Israel, and positioned forces along the border fence to stop the launching of the arson devices by Gazan youth.
Hundreds of incendiary devices have been launched into Israel, including a falcon which was found dead in a burnt field with such a device attached to its leg.While the sense of security felt by residents of the South may have gone up in flames, the security risk caused by the fires has been limited. Do these fire kites and balloons justify launching a fourth war with Hamas in Gaza? Both Hamas and the IDF wish to avoid an escalation that would lead to a Gaza war four years after Operation Protective Edge.Hamas, which itself is under intense public pressure due to the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave, knows that it cannot militarily stand another conflict against the IDF. Similarly, the IDF understands that another asymmetric military campaign against Hamas and the other terrorist groups in the Strip will not end with a clear victory. And therein lies the problem.Both sides recognize that in the event of another conflict, both would emerge as losers. Yet both sides are acting and making statements which are reminiscent to the weeks before Operation Protective Edge.At the time this article was written, incoming rocket sirens were activated in southern Israel communities bordering the northern Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon.While the IDF subsequently declared the siren to be a false alarm, the tension remains.Both sides are playing with fire.
Falcon carrying flammable material found dead in park near Gaza Strip, July 17, 2018 (Gilad Gabay/Israel Nature and Parks Authority)