TEL AVIV – Whatever will they come up with next? Gazan rioters have added a creative new weapon to their arsenal. Instead of attack kites, young Palestinians have adopted another child’s toy to spread fires on Israeli soil: helium balloons.
The idea is much the same as the terror kites. Load the balloons with burning petrol and fly them over the border with Israel in hope that the breeze will help them along the way to starting a fire that will destroy acres of farmland, forestry, nature reserves and, with any luck, human lives situated around the border area.
The footage below on a Palestinian Facebook page shows three men wearing the Guy Fawkes mask made famous in V for Vendetta and setting a string attached to a bunch of three helium balloons alight before sending them over the border. The next shot zooms in on Israeli fire engines responding.
Some 17,500 dunams (4,300 acres) of land have been burned in more than 350 fires since mid-April from attack kites and helium balloons, more than half located in nature reserves. Ecologists have said the fires have greatly harmed the local wildlife.
So far no one has been harmed as a result of the fires but they have racked up millions of shekels in damages to local farmers with more than 3,000 acres of wheat destroyed. Farmers from the Gaza border communities made the decision to move up the harvest date to avoid more damage to the wheat caused by the kites.
New blazes happen every day.
The kites have been decorated to include swastikas, the Palestinian flag and warnings to Israel.
The IDF purchased hundreds of drones designed to intercept the kites. The UAVs, assembled on existing drones such as the Pegasus 120, were provided within days of the first “kite attack” by the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.
However, for the most part Israel is combating the “kite terror” by responding as quickly as possible to fires before they spread.
Farmers are also helping the authorities by digging up areas of soil surrounding a fire in order to contain it.
As the Times of Israel noted, the tactic of using attack balloons was not invented by Palestinians.
In World War II, Japan used “fire balloons” against the U.S. when it sent 9,000 enormous hydrogen-filled balloons over the Pacific where the air currents would take them toward American soil. Around 300 of the balloons reached the North American coast but did little harm — with one notable exception.
A bomb that was attached to a Japanese balloon exploded in Bly, Oregon, killing six people and constituting the only attack on the American mainland during World War II.