Israel

Blazes Started by “Fire Kites” Destroy 7 Square Miles of Forest, as Gaza Riots Continue

Fires started by Hamas-led rioters flying kite carrying fire bombs have consumed nearly 17,500 dunams — 7 square miles — of land and caused an estimated $1.4 million worth of damage to fields and forests in southern Israel, The Times of Israel reported Monday.

For several weeks rioters have been attaching incendiary devices to kites and balloons — though the tactic is known generally as “fire kites” — and flying them over the border to set fire to vegetation and presenting a threat to Israelis living near the border.

Israel has not yet developed an effective counter-measure for the “fire kites.” An effort to use drones to intercept the kites has not succeeded. Instead, farmers plow the area around the fires to deprive them of the fuel they need to keep burning. Yet it is estimated that since Hamas started using the tactic, the kites and balloons have started 300 fires in southern Israel, consuming 10,000 dunams of (2,470 acres) of parks and nature reserves. On Saturday alone, 300 dunams (74 acres) of the Carmia nature reserve —  about one third of its total area was burned.

Local farmers have claimed that some 5,000 dunams (1,235 acres), mostly wheat fields, have been destroyed by the kite-borne fires. Another 2,500 dunams (620 acres) of Jewish National Funds forest have been burnt too.

The violent riots have continued. On Monday, the IDF shot and killed a man carrying an axe, who breached the border fence with Israel. A second infiltrator was wounded, but escaped back into the Gaza Strip.

The latest violence comes on the heels of renewed rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, violating terms of an apparent ceasefire reached last week. Six rockets were fired into overnight Saturday. Four were intercepted by Iron Dome batteries. One of the remaining rockets landed harmlessly in Israel, and the other apparently in Gaza.

A Palestinian female paramedic died during the violent riots on Friday. Sources in Gaza say that Razan Najjar was shot in the chest. Israel says that it is investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. Pro-Palestinian social media falsely claimed that an IDF veteran, who had been released from army service, was responsible for shooting Najjar. The false claim led to death threats against the young woman who had immigrated to Israel from Boston.

[Photo: Haaretz / YouTube]