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Israelis assess fire damage from Gaza incendiary balloons

Israeli forestry officials are reinforcing firefighting crews near the border with the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave.

Masked terrorists prepare helium balloons with incendiary material to be flown into Israel, aiming to cause casualties and damage, on Sep. 22, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Masked terrorists prepare helium balloons with incendiary material to be flown into Israel, aiming to cause casualties and damage, on Sep. 22, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.

Following the Yom Kippur holiday and a week of riots along the Gaza border, Israeli farmers and fire fighters on Tuesday assessed the damage from incendiary balloons launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday evening, an Israel Defense Forces drone struck Hamas terror outposts in Gaza for the third time this week as riots continue to escalate.

Earlier in the day, rioters managed to breach the border fence and set fire to a nearby IDF position. They returned to the Gaza Strip unharmed, Israel’s Walla news site cited security forces as saying.

Palestinians have burned tires and thrown rocks and fire bombs at Israeli forces, and two Palestinians were recently arrested trying to infiltrate the border.

The violence has also marked a return of incendiary and explosive balloons being released over the border from the northern Gaza Strip.

The balloons have sparked numerous fires destroying large swaths of land.

Shaike Shaked, a farmer from Netiv HaAsara near the Gaza border, told JNS he sprang into action as soon as he saw smoke in the area of the adjacent Kibbutz Kissufim on Sunday.

“Right away I ran over to make sure the pathway was clear and the window closed. In the farm, the workers are briefed in to stay close to the fence,” said Shaked.

“We’ve seen too many times these kinds of events escalating very quickly to rockets,” he added.

“We have so much experience now with the arson balloons from previous years; I know exactly how the changing wind directions may bring those balloons to my side,” he said. “During the night and up until around 8 a.m., the wind blows in my direction, and after that, it changes to blow towards the southeast, so early in the morning I’m up, standing ready to respond, if necessary, until I see that my crop is safe.”

Shaked also told JNS that because some of his fields are especially close to the Gaza border fence, they can only be reached through a special gate for Israeli agricultural workers, located at the Erez border crossing. The crossing is also where thousands of Palestinians with work permits normally enter Israel.

The Israeli Defense Ministry has closed the Erez crossing amid the escalating violence. According to Shaked, the closure also means Israeli farmers can’t reach their fields closest to the border.

“As soon as I see that kind of stuff, I immediately reduce the activity on that side—I’ve got almost half a dunam (0.12 acres) of crops there—and it’s impossible to work on it because of the blockage, so I’ll make sure to take care of the crops as soon as possible now, and if there’s an escalation, I’ll be good,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Israeli forestry officials are reinforcing firefighting crews in the area around the Gaza border.

Danny Ben-David, the manager of the Western Negev region of the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), told JNS, “In light of the situation, JNF will increase the firefighting teams and firemen in the area surrounding Gaza Strip. We will continue to reinforce the area in order to protect the forest and the residents as there’s development.”

The KKL-JNF is a non-profit organization that specializes in the developing Israeli land, especially planting trees.

The riots and terror balloons are believed to be a form of Hamas pressure on Israel and Qatar. JNS previously reported that Doha notified Hamas in mid-September it did not intend to renew its monthly aid package of $30 million.

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