Seventeen Fires Blaze in Israel's South; Burning Kites From Gaza Suspected

Incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza have caused about $550,000 in damages over the past months

A fire burns in the area of Ein Habesor near Israel's border with Gaza, June 16, 2018.
Eshkol Security

Seventeen fires erupted on Saturday in Gaza border communities in Israel, with ten of them suspected to be the result of incendiary kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip.

Of the eleven fires that were still blazing in the afternoon, seven were in the communities of Kissufim and Re'im, three in a nature reserve, and another near Kibbutz Karmia. Karmia's security coordinator said he was told the fire there was lit by "several people who fled in a van." 

>> As fires around Gaza become daily sight, Israeli army faces pressure to act against flaming kites | Analysis

Soldiers fight a fire in southern Israel on June 15, 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

On Thursday, Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Brig. Gen. Dedi Simchi said kites launched from Gaza had caused 412 blazes over 75 days and that the cost of dealing with them stood at around 2 million shekels ($550,000) beyond the service's budget.

Amir Dahan, who heads the Tax Authority compensation department, said that 65 claims related to the damage caused by the kites have been submitted to the authority. “We estimate the damage at 5,000 dunams (about 1,235 acres) of wheat, avocado orchards, jojoba and agricultural equipment, although the Jewish National Fund and the Nature and Parks Authority have yet to submit claims, so we can’t estimate the total extent of the damage. Our estimate of all the damage is about 7 million shekels (nearly $2 million) so far.”

On Friday, the Israeli military fired warning shots at Palestinians in Gaza attempting to ignite incendiary balloons.