Israel Limits Gaza Fishing Zone as Explosive-laden Balloon Launches Continue

Israel is reducing the fishing zone from 15 to eight nautical miles as fires caused by explosives tied to balloons have destroyed 250 acres of Israeli land

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Firefighting soldiers put out a blaze in a Gaza border forest that was started by an incendiary balloon launched from Gaza, August 11, 2020.
Firefighting soldiers put out a blaze in a Gaza border forest that was started by an incendiary balloon launched from Gaza, August 11, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli military announced that it is limiting Gaza's fishing zone Wednesday night in light of the recent resumption of cross-border attacks with explosive-laden balloons.

A statement from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said that following consultations, Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved the recommendation of the IDF chief of staff, the COGAT and other security officials and instructed them to immediately limit the fishing zone from 15 to eight nautical miles until further notice.

"This follows the continued launch of incendiary balloons from the Strip into Israeli territory" the statement said. "The decision was made in light of the repeated acts of terror from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians in recent days, which represent a violation of Israeli sovereignty," it added, and said that Israel holds Hamas responsible for acts emanating from the Strip, and will "face the consequences for violence enacted against Israeli civilians."

On Monday, Israel announced that it would shut the Kerem Shalom border crossing following days of incendiary balloon launches from Palestinians in Gaza after a months-long lull.

The balloon launches began around a year and a half ago, when Gazans started holding weekly demonstrations along the border. They had begun tapering off before the coronavirus pandemic hit, stopping almost completely afterward. Few rockets were fired as well.

Yet over the last several days, several balloons have been launched from Gaza, causing explosions and fires in woods and agricultural lands. According to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, around 1,000 dunams (about 250 acres) have been destroyed so far.

So far, the number of the balloon launches has been small compared to what it was at its peak. But there have also been other incidents that show things are heating up in the area.

On Sunday, Gazans shot at Israeli soldiers who had come to evacuate civilian workers building a new border fence after the workers reported hearing gunfire. And last week, a rocket was fired at Sderot, though it was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Hamas sources told Haaretz on Saturday that the resumption of balloon launches was intended to send a message to Israel and the international community that Gaza is fed up with the absence of progress toward improving conditions in the territory.

“They said there were understandings and agreements on advancing projects, mainly in the field of infrastructure and on the humanitarian level, but everything seems to be stuck,” one senior Hamas official said. All Gaza has gotten so far, he added, is $100 grants to the poor from Qatar, and that isn’t enough.

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