Explosive-laden Gaza Balloons Spark 19 Fires in Southern Israel

Israel has decided to block Qatari aid and halt fuel transfers over launching of balloons, which have resumed following lull

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
A firefighter in southern Israel, August 13, 2020.
A firefighter in southern Israel, August 13, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Nineteen fires were started in southern Israel on Saturday by explosives-laden balloons launched from the Gaza Strip, fire and rescue services said.

Most were small brush fires in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol Regional Councils and were not dangerous, according to the authorities’ statement, which added that investigators had concluded the fires had been the result of such balloons.

The fires came a day after 21 fires were reported in the south, including in those two locations, as well as in Sderot, Dimona and Merhavim, prompting the military to strike Hamas targets in Gaza on Friday night.

The government had meanwhile decided that it will not allow any financial aid to enter the Gaza Strip from Qatar as long as Palestinians continue to launch explosive-laden balloons into Israel.

Qatar is supposed to transfer $30 million to Hamas in Gaza, as it does every month.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has halted fuel transfers into Gaza due to the launching of incendiary balloons. Earlier this week, Israel restricted the fishing zone to eight nautical miles from 15, and halted all transfer of goods from its Erez land crossing.

In the past week, intensive negotiations have taken place between Israel and Hamas, via Qatar and Egypt, in an attempt to stop the escalation on the Gaza border.

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