Suspected Explosive-laden Balloons Found in Israel as Gaza Factions Mull Resuming Weekly Protests

Hamas official says possible West Bank annexation, slated for as early as July 1, could spark escalation

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Palestinians in Gaza protest near the border fence with Israel, 2019.
Palestinians in Gaza protest near the border fence with Israel, 2019. Credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

A cluster of balloons police said was apparently attached to an explosive device was found on Sunday near the Israeli town of Tidhar, east of the Gaza Strip.

The cluster was destroyed by a sapper, police said. 

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The incident comes after weeks of relative calm. On Monday, the organizing committee of the weekly Gaza border protests is expected to discuss the resumption of launching explosive-laden balloons into Israel, as well as protests along the border and nighttime activity.   

These activities, which have frequently led to violent confrontations and numerous Palestinian casualtieswere suspended in December last year

According to sources in the committee – in which all Gaza's militant factions are represented, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad –the explosive device that landed in Tidhar was launched into Israel by youths trying to pressure the factions to resume activity along the border fence.

Committee member Talal Abu Zarifa told Haaretz that a decision has yet to be made on resuming protests, and that all options are on the table.

A Hamas official said that the committee has every right to resume the protests and nighttime activity along the fence, adding they are a legitimate tool of resistance. He said the decision was largely dependent on Israel implementing understandings that were reached as part of a ceasefire. He added that the organization was likely to place the possible annexation of large swathes of the West Bank, which Netanyahu said could start as early as July 1, as an issue that could spark escalation.

The committe announced last December that protests would be suspended until March 30. Hamas, which ultimately sets the tone and scope of the rallies, decided to freeze the protests amid fears of the disastrous consequences of a coronavirus outbreak on the Strip's almost inexistent medical infrastructure.

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