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Why are balloons tied to explosives the last flashpoint of tensions between Israel and Hamas?




Officials said at least 20 fires started on balloons on Tuesday. Palestinian media reported that Israeli retaliatory strikes caused property damage, with no casualties reported.

More balloons were launched on Wednesday, starting at least four more fires, Israeli rescue and fire authorities reported.

While militants have been sending balloons to Israel for years, the response to Israeli army airstrikes in Gaza is a new escalation. Israeli officials said it was part of a message to Hamas stating that any provocation will be strong.

Former finance minister Israel Katz, who was in the cabinet during the most recent conflict with Gaza last month, said that after this operation “we decided to change the rules”.

“For every attack on Israel, there will be targeted killings and widespread attacks on Hamas targets,” he tweeted.

This is what we know about balloons and how they play to current tensions.

What are incendiary balloons?

They’re relatively simple artifacts – helium balloons that often look like children’s birthday party decorations, attached to explosives or devices that light up preventively.

The militants launch balloons from Gaza and the winds of the Mediterranean Sea help push them into Israeli territory.

What are they designed to do?

Balloons are designed to scare, cause damage and cause fires. Much of the land immediately surrounding Gaza is fields, nature reserves or farmland. Aside from explosives connected to devices that can land in residential areas and cause injury or damage, balloon fires burn crops and nature reserves.

According to the Israeli Parks and Nature Reserves Authority, these fires have burned more than 3,657 acres in the area surrounding Gaza from 2018 to May 25, 2021. Israeli authorities say the fires have destroyed thousands of acres of crops.

Since 2018, more than 10,400 hectares have been burned in Israel due to flying incendiary devices, not including Tuesday’s fires, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces said.

So far the authorities have not reported any casualties for these incendiary devices.

Militants east of Gaza City are preparing incendiary balloons on Wednesday to launch themselves across the border fence into Israel.

Why this time balloons instead of rockets?

Balloons are a cheap way for Gaza militant groups to send a message to Israel, without provoking the full Israeli military retaliation that often occurs when rockets are fired from the coastal enclave.

Balloons are easy to build and require little setup for launch, compared to time-consuming and time-consuming rockets. To date, balloons rarely cause injury.

Tuesday’s balloons probably floated in response to the Israeli government’s decision to allow a provocative march with a right-wing flag in Jerusalem.

The flag march is an annual parade where mostly Jewish nationalist groups walk through the Old City of Jerusalem carrying Israeli flags to celebrate Israel gaining control of the Western Wall during the 1967 Six Day War. with Palestinian residents of the Old City.

On Tuesday, 33 Palestinian protesters were injured, including a stun grenade, rubber bullets and live fire – with six evacuated to the hospital – following clashes with Israeli security forces around East Jerusalem. say the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hamas won, saying his tactics and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem had forced Israeli officials to change the path of the flag parade and take other precautions.

Where is Israel’s new leader on the balloons?

In the past, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had pushed former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a tougher stance against Hamas and the launching of incendiary balloons, saying the Israeli army should respond to them in the same way it responds to rockets aimed at Israeli communities.

After 11 days of conflict last month, Israeli officials indicated that acts such as incendiary balloons would be felt more strongly, which seems to be happening now.

In 2018, while he was Minister of Education, Bennett said military should “shoot to kill” anyone who sends these incendiary devices over the border fence.