TEL AVIV – Several fires spread across southern Israel on Monday as a result of attack kites and balloons flown over the border by Palestinians from Gaza, officials said.
According to the tax authority, more than NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) in damage has been caused by the fires since the beginning of April, destroying thousands of acres of farmland.
On Monday, a balloon armed with burning petrol sparked a blaze on the roof of a storehouse in Hof Ashkelon, causing damage to a building before being extinguished.
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. So far the drones have had limited success in thwarting the fires.
“We view the use of incendiary balloons and kites very seriously and will continue to act to prevent their use,” the army said.
Blazes broke out near Kibbutz Mefalsim, Kibbutz Or HaNer, Kibbutz Nir Am and Kfar Azza in the Eshkol region. Roads were closed until the fires were brought under control. Once they reopened, officials called on residents to drive carefully through the area as it was “full of smoke.”
In a statement, the head of the Hof Ashkelon regional council admitted that not much could be done to prevent the Gaza Strip from utilizing the helium for their “terror” balloons since the gas is used in hospitals for medical purposes.
“Anything connected to medicine and saving people’s lives we don’t limit. But in the meantime, the balloons keep coming from the Gaza Strip and I expect that with the end of the harvest, there will be more attempts to launch balloons bearing explosives,” said Hof Ashkelon regional council head Yair Farjun.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan urged the IDF to shoot anyone flying the “terror kites” in the legs.
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 into 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 World War II attack on the American mainland.