Raging Fires on Israeli Side of Gaza Border Area as Suspected Kite Attacks Continue

Since the end of March, hundreds of acres of crops and thousands in nature reserves have been burned in blazes started by kites sent from Gaza

Fires in Israeli fields next to Gaza Strip burn. June 2, 2018
Nir Tzafrir

Multiple fires broke out Saturday in Israeli fields near the Gaza border, with fire and rescue services suspecting that burning kites sent from the Gaza Strip were to blame.

The fires broke out in the morning, including one that destroyed some 300 dunams (about 74 acres) of woodland in a nature reserve. Dozens of firefighting crews and four planes have been deployed to fight the blaze.

The area also saw several fires break out on Friday, which were brought under control by firefighters.

>> Still hoping to leverage Gaza protests, Hamas lacks enthusiasm for war with Israel | Analysis << 

In light of the high number of conflagrations caused by firebomb-bearing kites, the Agriculture Ministry has recently begun encouraging farmers in the Gaza border area to harvest their wheat crops ahead of time in case they are destroyed by fires.

A fire at Be'eri, a kibbutz in southern Israel, on June 2, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The government offered 60 shekels ($17) per dunam (about a quarter acre) to wheat farmers, while anyone whose fields have been damaged are to be considered terror victims and receive compensation accordingly.

Since the end of March, the Gaza border area has seen over 260 fires. Some 3,000 dunams (740 acres) of crops, mostly wheat and worth between three to four million shekels ($843,000 to $1,124,000), were burned. Beyond the agricultural damage, some 2,100 dunams were burned in KKL-JNF forests, 5,000 to 4,000 dunams in the Besor Forest Nature Reserve, and thousands of dunams of woodland and thorns scattered throughout the area.