Israel Fires at Gazans Preparing to Launch Burning Balloons Into Israel; 2 Said Wounded

The Israeli military said Saturday it carried out a drone strike near residents of the Gaza Strip who were launching incendiary balloons into Israel. Two people were wounded in the strike, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

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The military said the incident was not intended to harm the Palestinians and was meant to serve as a deterrent.

Incendiary kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip are thought to be behind ten of seventeen fires that blazed in Israeli communities near the border Saturday. Over the past few months, incendiary kites and balloons have destroyed some 5,000 dunams (about 1,235 acres) of Israeli fields, resulting in about 7 million shekels (nearly $2 million) in damages.

Last week, Haaretz reported that Israeli military officials believed they would no longer be able to show restraint in the face of the large numbers of incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza.

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A few days later, the Israeli military responded to the issue for the first time, firing a warning shot against a group of Palestinian youths in Gaza who were preparing to send flammable balloons into Israel. A similar incident took place on Friday when Israel shot at a group launching explosive balloons.

A fire at Kissufim on June 16, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Friday saw dozens of Palestinian demonstrators congregating at the Israel-Gaza border in what was the lowest protest turnout since the start of the border protests on March 30. Even as tens of thousands of Palestinians attended morning prayers to mark the Id al-Fitr holiday, which commemorates the end of the month-long Ramadan fast, the worshipers dispersed in the afternoon and few stayed to demonstrate. 

A day earlier, the Gaza Health Ministry said a 21-year-old Palestinian who had been shot by Israeli troops near the Gaza border the week before had died, bringing to 128 the number of Palestinians killed since the weekly Friday protests began in March.