The phenomenon of “arson terrorism” using kites, which began on a small scale during the
third week of the violent “return marches,” has gathered momentum during the past few
weeks, led by Hamas. In addition to incendiary kites, the use of helium balloons with
flammable substances attached began, and later kites and balloons with IEDs attached.
For Hamas, the advantage of helium balloons is that they can penetrate deep into Israeli
territory and cause more damage than kites. Arson terrorism peaked on Saturday, June 16,
2018, when dozens of incendiary kites and balloons caused 25 fires which destroyed
thousands of acres of crops, agricultural fields and natural forests.
Hamas, which orchestrates and directs the “return marches,” is also involved in
launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israel and encourages their extensive use
in what it calls the “popular resistance.” Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are
fully aware of the economic and psychological damage caused by arson terrorism. They
consider the kites a cheap, available and effective tool which does not endanger the residents
of the Gaza Strip, and for which Israel does not have a suitable remedy.
So far more than 800 incendiary kites and balloons have been launched, causing about 1,000 fires in the communities near the Gaza Strip, destroying crops, natural forests and nature reserves. According to the Israel Fire and Rescue Authority, so far firefighters have dealt with 412 fires. For 75 continuous days, there has been an average of approximately 11 cases of arson per day. More than 25,000 dunams (more than 6,100 acres) of agricultural and forests were set on fire. In addition to the physical and financial damages caused by the arson attacks, daily life in the communities along the Gaza Strip has been disrupted.
The Israeli security forces have tried to intercept the incendiary kites with technological
measures (drones) but without effective results. Therefore, in the wake of the
accumulating damages, Israeli Air Force aircraft recently carried out a series of warning
attacks on the squads launching incendiary kites and balloons. On June 16 and 17, 2018,
the IDF fired shot near launch squads. On the night of June 17, 2018, the IDF stepped up its response and attacked nine Hamas targets, regarding Hamas as responsible for arson
terrorism. In response three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, two of which fell inside
Israeli territory. Stepping up responses clearly indicates the potential for escalation
caused by Hamas’ policy of brinksmanship.
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