Five Strikes in 24 Hours: Israel Targets Gazans Prepping Flaming Balloons, Hamas Targets

Three Palestinians wounded, according to Palestinian officials, though no word on their condition

A man reacts to a fire in southern Israel started by an incendiary balloon on June 21, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli military carried out five strikes on Palestinians in Gaza prepping flaming kites and balloons, as well as Hamas targets throughout the Strip, over the past 24 hours.

>> Israel and Hamas are on the verge of the first kite war | Analysis

On Sunday, the IDF said it conducted an airstrike in Gaza on a vehicle carrying a group of Palestinians was preparing to launch incendiary balloons in the southern strip.

Shortly after, Palestinians reported two additional strikes on Hamas positions in the Bureij refugee camp carried out by Israeli drones and shells.

Three Palestinians were wounded in the strike, according to Palestinian officials, though no details on their condition were released. The army reportedly conducted a fifth strike on Palestinians prepping flaming kites and balloons shortly after.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Israel said they were combating 26 fires in Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

Earlier this month, Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Brig. Gen. Dedi Simchi said hundreds of fires had been caused by the kites and balloons and that the cost of fighting them stood at some 2 million shekels ($550,000) over the service's budget. Amir Dahan, who heads the Tax Authority's compensation department, said the estimated damage to agriculture from the fires was about 7 million shekels (nearly $2 million). 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that Israel might be forced to launch a "large-scale military operation" in Gaza. Erdan added that those launching burning kites from Gaza should be shot regardless of their age: "age doesn’t matter, they're terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented." 

Erdan said this month that Hamas commanders and Palestinians who launch incendiary kites against Israel from the Gaza Strip should be dealt with using targeted killings. 

Senior defense officials later clarified to politicians that they believe the way to cope with incendiary kites and balloons was to attack Hamas targets and not to harm those launching the flammable objects.