Palestinians Preparing to Ramp Up Airborne Firebomb Attacks Against Israel

Jack Khoury
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Hamas members prepare balloons in Gaza, January 2020.
Hamas members prepare balloons in Gaza, January 2020.
Jack Khoury

Militants involved in units firing incendiary balloons from Gaza to Israel are preparing to increase attacks in the coming days in order to pressure Egypt and Israel to ease restrictions on the coastal enclave.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Saturday that Palestinian factions intend to also renew in the coming days operations by units responsible for causing nighttime disturbances along the border.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 56

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Militants told Haaretz that they are protesting the lack of progress on the ground, despite talks between Israel and Hamas and attempts to advance long-term understandings.

At least four explosives reached Israel from Gaza via helium balloons in recent days, according to police data. An explosive was disarmed in a public park in the southern city of Sderot on Saturday. On Friday, police sappers handled a suspicious object that landed on the beach in Ashkelon. On Thursday, an explosive tied to several balloons blew up in an uninhabited area in the Sderot Negev Regional Council. On Wednesday, sappers disabled a suspicious object that was tied to balloons in Sderot.

Hamas members told Haaretz that the recent incidents are tied to the visit of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the group’s political wing, in Iran. They said that since he arrived in Tehran for the funeral of slain Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, there have been signs of a disconnect with Egypt. Such a disconnect could delay the advancement of projects, mainly to provide Gaza with electricity, as well as the entry of goods.

“The feeling is that something has happened regarding Egypt since Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran,” a member of Hamas' political wing told Haaretz. “What we have seen in recent days is a kind of message to the Egyptian mediators and to Israel that the factions, and chief among them Hamas, are not prepared to accept this situation.”

A militant in the incendiary bomb unit told Haaretz that there was no formal decision by the Palestinian factions to ramp up activity. However, he explained, the units could not boost their operations without Hamas turning a blind eye.

A member of the group’s committee that organizes the Friday demonstrations near the border fence told Haaretz that rage is growing in Gaza over the gap between events on the ground and reports of loosening restrictions. “In Israel they are expecting quiet because of the election, but we in the Gaza Stirp want to live,” he said.

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