Hamas Official: Balloon Bombs From Gaza Are Message to Israel Over Stalled Negotiations

Israel 'said there were agreements to move forward with humanitarian projects, but everything appears to be stuck,' official tells Haaretz after suspicious object was discovered near border

Jack Khoury
Almog Ben Zikri
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Israeli firefighters put out a blaze caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza near Kibbutz Nir Am, August 7, 2020.
Israeli firefighters put out a blaze caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza near Kibbutz Nir Am, August 7, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jack Khoury
Almog Ben Zikri

A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told Haaretz on Saturday that the balloons carrying explosives or incendiary materials that have been launched into Israel in recent days are meant to send a message to Israel and to international bodies.

The senior Hamas official said that the resumption, if unofficial, of the balloons points to growing pressure and anger in the Strip over the lack of progress in what was once called understandings for a cease-fire.

According to the official, the understandings shrank down to a payment of $100 to poor families, financed by Qatar, which he said was insufficient. “They said there were understandings and agreements to move forward with infrastructure and humanitarian projects, but everything appears to be stuck,” he said.

A suspicious object attached to a bunch of balloons was discovered in an agricultural area within the Eshkol Regional Council, which borders the Gaza Strip. The council said a police sapper and members of the security services were sent to the site. In addition, there were reports of a possible explosion of a balloon bomb in the area of nearby Netivot.

Israeli aircraft hit Hamas underground infrastructure of the northern Strip late Thursday night, the Israel Defense Forces said. The army added that the strike was in retaliation for the latest explosive-laden balloons.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter that Israel “will not tolerate any violation of sovereignty or harm done to residents of southern Israel,” adding: “In Gaza it must be understood that there’s no other solution, only returning our boys home and quiet will bring about economic growth in the Strip.”

The Hamas official said that last week in a meeting in Qatar with the United Nations' Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh protested the situation in the Gaza Strip: “In Israel they’re trying to tie everything to the coronavirus but that’s not right, it’s impossible to reduce everything to the Qatari grant.”

At this point it’s unclear to what extent Hamas will increase the frequency of the balloons. The assumption is that Egypt will step in to prevent an escalation. Even before the pandemic broke out, the organizers of the protests along the border with Israel announced a halt to the demonstrations, saying they had run their course.

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