(August 2, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Twenty-nine fires erupted in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border on Tuesday, as Palestinian arson terrorism continued to wreak havoc near the volatile frontier.
One incendiary balloon sent over the Gaza border landed on a parked vehicle in the Eshkol Regional Council, damaging its roof. No injuries were reported in the incident.
Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan leveled harsh criticism at the government over what he called its tolerance of the situation.
“Frankly, I’m very concerned by the government’s inaction. Especially given the promises made to us during their [ministers’] recent meetings with the local council heads.
“This type of prolonged inaction is perceived by the other side as a serious weakness. Hamas continues to dictate reality on the ground and we keep being dragged behind it,” he said.
Various ministers visited the Gaza-vicinity communities over the past few weeks, each saying that Israel will not tolerate arson terrorism as the norm near the border.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who visited Kibbutz Or Haner, some 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles) from Gaza, last week, warned that “if we have Color Red [rocket alerts] here, Gaza will turn deep red, too.”
“We would prefer not to be dragged into war, and we’re doing everything we can to avoid a large operation, but the ball is not in our court. I highly recommend Hamas be wise about it,” said Lieberman.
Idan demanded the government “live up to its statements that kite and balloon terrorism would be treated like rocket fire.”
Several ministers have urged the IDF to target arson terrorism cells directly, as it does terrorist firing rockets at Israel, but military officials have been wary of the move, saying that targeting incendiary kite and balloon cells, which mostly comprise teens, would lead to a rapid security escalation.
The terrorist arson campaign, launched in late April, has so far decimated nearly 10,000 acres of forest and farmlands on the Israeli side of the border. Incendiary kites and balloons have caused millions of dollars in damage to the area over the past three months and environmental experts say it will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate the vegetation and wildlife that have been destroyed.