Netanyahu, Gantz warn Hamas against continued launch of explosive balloons

Dozens of fires have broken out in recent days caused by explosive and incendiary devices launched from Gaza.

Gaza balloon units prepare incendiary and explosive balloons to launch towards Israel, August 2020 (photo credit: AHFAD AL-NASSER BALLOON UNIT/TELEGRAM)
Gaza balloon units prepare incendiary and explosive balloons to launch towards Israel, August 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Hamas on Tuesday that Israel would respond if the group didn’t stop launching incendiary and explosive balloons.
“I want to make clear to all of Iran’s proxies, including Gaza – there will be a heavy price to the balloon terror,” Netanyahu said. “We will act and exact a heavy price. We’ve done it in the past. Remember that, because we will do it again now.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad will see the harsh results of these calamities,” he added.
Netanyahu said “95% of these threats [to Israel] come from Iran,” including its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as its threatening Israel with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Gantz, who had been touring the Home Front Command, said Israel would respond “forcefully” if the phenomenon didn’t stop.
“In the South, Hamas is continuing to enable explosive balloon attacks to be launched into the State of Israel. We are not prepared to accept that and have closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing as a result,” Gantz said. “They would do well to stop violating Israel’s safety and security. If that doesn’t happen, we will need to respond, and forcefully.”
Dozens of fires have been reported in recent days in the South after a lull of several months amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, but Palestinians in Gaza have once again resumed launching the devices from the blockaded coastal enclave, leading to a fear of a new wave of violence in the area.
The military has struck Hamas targets in Gaza over the past week in response, and on Monday night, the Defense Ministry announced that it would close the Kerem Shalom crossing except for fuel and humanitarian aid transfers.
“The launching of the incendiary balloons and the violation of the security calm will first and foremost harm the residents of the Gaza Strip, the economic growth as well as the attempts to improve the civilian situation of its residents,” said the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Adding that Hamas is “fully accountable” for all that happens in Gaza as well as actions launched against Israel from the Strip, COGAT said “the IDF and the State of Israel will react forcefully and in an uncompromising manner to any violation of our sovereignty and to any threat imposed to our citizens... Hamas will therefore have to deal with the consequences of the violence committed against the citizens of Israel.”
Kerem Shalom is Gaza’s main commercial crossing.
Gazans started launching incendiary and explosive devices around two years ago, when they began to hold the weekly “March of Return” demonstrations along the border fence.
Sappers were called on Sunday to explosive devices attached to balloon clusters in Arad, 80 km. away.
While the number of fires ignited from these devices is less than at its peak, 30 fires were reported in communities bordering the Gaza Strip on Monday. Dozens more were reported on Tuesday.