A fire in the moshav of Nahala on July 25, 2018. Israel Fire and Rescue Services

Israel Battles More Blazes in Gaza-border Communities as Incendiary Balloons Continue

Hamas officials say they cannot publicly call for an end to airborne firebombs until Israeli forces ease blockade on the Strip

Israeli authorities on Wednesday battled ten fires on the Israeli side of the Gaza border area, one of which was started by incendiary balloons. There were no indications that the other fires were also caused by balloons. All of the fires were contained. 

A senior political source said that Hamas had requested a cease-fire and had pledged to stop the burning of the kites. On the other hand, various activists told Haaretz that the Hamas leadership would not be able to publicly condemn the burning of kites until it saw an easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

>> Israel paints Gaza airborne firebombs as a national disaster – and Hamas reaps the benefits | Analysis

Last week, a meeting was held for representatives of various factions in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas and the National Committee for the Return Processes. The meeting discussed the continuation of weekly protests at the Gaza border fence, while some demanded that the burning of the kites and balloons be stopped "in order not to give Israel cause to start a new war." Hamas representatives said they could not make such a public call to end the March of Return.

According to evaluations by rescue services, some 1,200 fires in Israel were caused by balloons in recent months, which have destroyed about 28,000 dunams (roughly 7,000 acres) of land. 

A man reacts as Israeli fire fighters and soldiers attempt to extinguish a fire in a kibbutz caused by a incendiary balloon launched by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 21, 2018. Tsafrir Abayov/AP

On Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Hamas "is forcing Israel into a situation that may demand a "broad, painful military operation" that will be larger than the one in 2014."

Lieberman also referred to the many fires started by the balloons and kites, saying: "We all saw in the newspaper that because of the kites and because of the fires, we're not going to war – although any reasonable person who sees natural woodlands burned, thousands of acres of agricultural fields burned, understands that the situation is unreasonable.

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