Incendiary balloons cause numerous fires throughout southern Israel

Numerous fires broke out throughout the weekend in southern Israel, mostly along the Gaza border and in the Eshkol Regional Council, amid heightened tensions in the region.

Balloon units prepare incendiary and explosive balloons to launch towards Israel, August 12, 2020 (photo credit: SONS OF AL-ZAWARI BALLOON UNIT/TELEGRAM)
Balloon units prepare incendiary and explosive balloons to launch towards Israel, August 12, 2020
(photo credit: SONS OF AL-ZAWARI BALLOON UNIT/TELEGRAM)
Incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused numerous fires throughout southern Israel on Friday and Saturday amid rising tensions surrounding West Bank settlements.
Five fires were detected at the Kisufim forest and three others were detected at the Beeri and Besor forests on Friday.
Teams of volunteers and professionals from Israel's Fire and Rescue Services, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Israel Nature and Parks Authority were dispatched to the different scenes and managed to prevent the spread of the fire to nearby towns. 

Saturday marked the third consecutive day of fires breaking out in several areas of southern Israel due to incendiary balloons. A total of 10 fires were detected on Saturday, as well, each one in a different location throughout the Eshkol Regional Council and the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. 
Most of the fires were small and relatively easy to put out, the Fire and Rescue Department said, and the only damage done was to a wheat field. Investigators found that the 10 fires were caused by incendiary balloons.  
On Thursday, seven fires broke out in open fields within the Eshkol Region. They did not pose any danger to nearby towns and no injuries were reported. However, substantial damage was caused to one wheat field. 
All incidents on Thursday were caused by incendiary balloons, according to experts from the Fire and Rescue Services.
Tensions have been on the rise in the region due to the potential eviction of east Jerusalem residents living in Sheikh Jarrah, a move which is now on appeal before the High Court of Justice. 
At issue is a property dispute between them and the Nahalat Shimon company over land rights, with past court rulings dismissing their claims.
The new 540-unit plan would extend the footprint of the neighborhood which sits on the southern edge of Jerusalem near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. 
Its opponents fear that it is one of a number of projects in that area that create a wedge between Palestinian neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and Bethlehem, thereby blocking the territorial contiguity of any future Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Tovah Lazaroff and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.