IDF Brass to Ministers: Unjustified to Attack Gazans Sending Burning Kites to Israel

The solution is to strike Hamas targets, which could pressure the group to end the launches, defense officials say

A fire-fighting vehicle in a field in Eshkol Regional Council, June 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Senior officials in the defense establishment made it clear to politicians on Sunday that they believe the way to cope with incendiary kites and balloons is to attack Hamas targets and not to harm those launching the flammable objects.

The army believes that attacking groups launching the kites and balloons will result in too many casualties and another round of violence it would prefer to avoid. According to the army, attacking Hamas targets will be more effective as it will extract a price from the organization and pressure it to stop the arsons in the south on its own.

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Meanwhile, the military does recognize that the increasing number of kites and balloons being launched from the Gaza Strip are making southern Israeli residents impatient and that demands for a more intense response are becoming more strident.

Seventeen fires apparently started by burning kites broke out in southern Israel near the Gaza border Sunday. The fires resulted in the death of more than 1,000 turkeys, an agricultural worker at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha told Haaretz. A day earlier, 15 fires consumed more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of Israeli territory near the border.

On Sunday, the military responded by attacking four groups of people launching kites and balloons in the Gaza Strip. The army said the fire was aimed near the cell that was about to launch explosive-laden balloons. On Saturday, the IDF also fired at a group sending up incendiary balloons and said the fire was aimed at deterring, not hurting them.

Over the past few months, incendiary kites and balloons have destroyed some 5,000 dunams (about 1,235 acres) of Israeli fields, resulting in about 7 million shekels (nearly $2 million) in damages.