Gaza incendiary balloons spark 10 fires in south for a third day

Firefighting teams worked to extinguish multiple fires in southern Israel on Saturday, caused by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip.

According to fire services, teams responded to 10 blazes in the region.

At least three of the fires burned in the Be’eri forest, a nature reserve located near the border between Israel and Gaza, a spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund said.

There were no reports of any injuries or danger to nearby towns.

The fires came amid reports in the Gaza Strip from the so-called “balloon units” that they had begun to launch balloon-borne incendiary devices toward southern Israel. Saturday marked the third straight day of such attacks.

A report in the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper said that Palestinian factions in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip were planning to reactivate the so-called “nightly confusion units” which have in the past rioted along the security fence.

The attacks come amid rising tensions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and along the Gaza border. Police bolstered their presence in Jerusalem on Saturday following violent clashes that saw some 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers wounded.

The clashes have come as a result of tensions related to the holy month of Ramadan in the Temple Mount, as well as the potential eviction of dozens of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheik Jarrah neighborhood in favor of Jewish tenants, in a case that is being reviewed by the courts.

The military was preparing for potential mass protests near the Gaza border on Saturday.

Recent days have seen over a dozen fires sparked in the Gaza border area as a result of incendiary balloons.

In Gaza, the so-called “independent balloon unit” had warned on Thursday that “this is just the beginning.” Another smaller unit affiliated with the Gaza-based Mujahideen Brigades terror group announced on Saturday morning they had begun to mobilize their members to start the balloon-launching activities.

Masked Hamas members apparently prepare incendiary balloons to be launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, May 8, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

On Monday, two balloons carrying suspected explosive devices that were apparently launched from Gaza landed in southern Israel, local authorities said, in the first such attacks in months. The suspected bombs were found in agricultural fields in the Israeli community of Kfar Aza, east of Gaza City.

The practice of launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from the Gaza Strip toward Israel has waxed and waned over the past two years, though there have been relatively few launches of late, as the Israeli government and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group have been engaged in indirect talks about a long-term ceasefire.

Earlier this month, terrorists in Gaza launched dozens of rockets at southern Israel. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, where they caused no injury or damage, but a few struck inside Israeli communities, with shrapnel hitting buildings and vehicles. That attack also came amid tensions and warring protests of Palestinians and far-right Jews in Jerusalem.

On Friday, three Palestinians opened fire toward a Border Police base in Israeli territory near the northern West Bank, with two of the attackers killed and one wounded, when officers on the scene returned fire.

Israeli yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta was shot in a Palestinian terror attack in the West Bank earlier this week; he died of his wounds on Wednesday night.

Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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