Overnight Sunday Israeli jets hit nine targets inside the Gaza strip in response to alleged arson attempts and “explosive kites and balloons” being launched at Israel. The Israeli military issued a statement indicating that “The IDF attacked nine terror targets in two military compounds and a weapons manufacturing facility belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the northern Gaza Strip in response to the firing of kites and explosives and incendiary attacks on Israeli territory.”
The IDF further cited the launch of three rockets from Gaza territory early Monday morning which landed in open areas, causing no damage or casualties. Israelis have dubbed the devices “terror kites” which the IDF claims have been launched in the thousands over the past weeks.
Israeli authorities have attributed a recent spate of fires ravaging farmlands to the low-tech kites and “arson balloons” which have resulted in over 400 fires burning more than 6,000 acres, according to a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
During the ‘Great March of Return’ protests, which started along the Israeli-Gaza border fence in late March, explosive and incendiary devices have been used to target farmlands in southern Israel. Large kites or collections of balloons will typically be released while carrying burning items attached by a long cord.
They’ve also been dubbed ‘Molotov cocktail kites’ and have become the latest improvised means of getting around Israel’s high-tech air defense systems.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has called such tactics acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians and has vowed to hold Hamas responsible for “everything in and out of the Gaza Strip” and that the group “will bear the consequences” of its actions or inactions.
The Washington Post describes the kites as follows:
Outfitted with rags dipped in gasoline, smoldering embers, coals and, more recently, lightweight explosive devices, the kites are the latest weapon used by Palestinians against Israelis in their decades-old conflict. Handmade, mostly from household objects, the kites sail over the border from the Gaza Strip, which lies just to the west.
Over the weekend Israel signaled that it would conduct operations to root out the make-shift manufacturing sites where they are made, which according to some estimates have caused $1-2 million worth of damage to farms and kibbutzes. One kibbutz leader whose fields have been burned told the Washington Post, “They are sending us a message: We will burn your fields and maybe you will leave.”
Footage of last night’s IAF strikes of military objectives in the northern Gaza Strip belonging to the Hamas terror organization pic.twitter.com/ZKbmDIb465
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) June 18, 2018
One Gazan was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “It is a simple act. We enjoy our time flying kites, and we make the Israelis suffer like us. They can put pressure on their government to make us live better.” The 27-year-old man further said the idea of using kites as explosive weapons targeting the crops of Israeli settlers came “after seeing children playing with them.”
Israel is reportedly experimenting with the use of drones to latch onto the burning kites and guide them away from Israeli settlements, which the IDF says its done successfully in some cases.
During the 7-week long Great March of Return protests, Palestinian health officials counted 120 unarmed Palestinians killed and some 3,800 wounded by Israeli gunfire. The IDF, for its part, claims Hamas ordered civilians to approach the Israeli-Gaza border fence as ‘human shields’ in order to provoke the deadly response. The U.N. Human Rights Council has ordered a formal probe in to the deaths.