Israel: Smaller turnout at Gaza protests due to Eid al-Fitr

Israel: Smaller turnout at Gaza protests due to Eid al-Fitr

June 15 (UPI) — Israeli aircraft fired warning shots Friday as a smaller-than-usual group of protesting Palestinians gathered along the border in Gaza, some launching incendiary balloons and kites, Israel’s military said.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported it’s likely the lower turnout at the weekly protests was due to the Eid al-Fitr holiday and perhaps even the start of the World Cup in Russia. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Israel Defense Forces said they fired warning shots at vehicles and “incendiary balloon cells” in Gaza Strip on Friday.

“The IDF views the use of incendiary balloons and kites with great severity and will operate to prevent their use,” officials said.

The incendiary devices involve balloons and kites tied to Molotov cocktails or explosive devices. A unit of group of Gazans who use the devices — called the Sons of Zouari — threatened to launch them farther into Israeli territory Friday, Palestinian news agency Ma’an News reported.

The devices have sparked fires that burned thousands of acres of farmland, forests and nature preserves, Israeli officials told The Times of Israel. They estimated about $1.4 million in damages.

The fresh protests come two days after the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Israel for using excessive force on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Since March 30, at least 126 Palestinians have died in protests in the Gaza Strip, the Gaza Ministry of Health said.

Palestinians are demanding the right to return to their original homeland of Israel as refugees.