Monday, June 4, 2018

40 fires erupt as Gaza terrorists launch incendiary kites at ‎Israel ‎- Nikki Guttman and Israel Hayom Staff

by Nikki Guttman and Israel Hayom Staff 

One-third of Karmiya Nature Reserve destroyed, damage to local flora and fauna will take years to repair • IDF said to be working on drone countermeasures.

The fire in the Karmiya Nature Reserve, Saturday
Photo: Nir Tzafrir

Palestinian kite terrorism took a heavy toll on the ‎communities adjacent to the Israel-Gaza Strip border ‎over the weekend, as some 40 fires reduced hundreds ‎of acres of farmland and vegetation into ash. ‎

Palestinian rioters sent dozens of incendiary kites ‎over the border on Friday and Saturday, and hundreds ‎of firefighters battled the flames for hours each ‎day. ‎

Israel Fire and Rescue Services said that so far, ‎the Palestinians' "kite campaign," launched in late ‎April, has sparked 350 fires that have eradicated ‎nearly 7,000 acres of forest and agricultural ‎land on the Israeli side of the border, affecting ‎every community near the security fence. ‎

Firefighters from all districts have been deployed ‎to the Gaza vicinity to help local teams battle ‎the blazes.

The largest fire this weekend destroyed a ‎significant part of the Karmiya Nature Reserve, the ‎Israel Nature ‎and Parks Authority reported Saturday.‎ The INPA said around one-third of the reserve – 75 acres of ‎the 275-acre park – has been reduced to ash, causing ‎untold devastation.‎

Flames raged for hours, fueled by the dry weather ‎conditions. "At first, we couldn't use firefighting ‎aircraft – they would be flying close to the Gaza ‎border and the military forbade it," said INPA ‎inspector Kobi Sofer. ‎

He said rehabilitating the damage caused to the ‎area's flora and fauna would take years.‎

Rafi Babian
A fire sparked by an incendiary kite in an Israeli community near the Gaza border, last week

Dozens of greenhouses and fields in the communities ‎near the border sustained fire damage over the ‎weekend as well and local farmers said that at this ‎point, the damage amounted to tens of millions of ‎shekels.‎

Kibbutz Kissufim spokesman Benny Hasson told Israel ‎Hayom that "the government isn't protecting us. ‎We've come to the point where we have no control ‎over our daily routine – they [the Palestinians] ‎control it. ‎ The fires enveloping the kibbutz have caused ‎significant financial damage. The State of Israel ‎has not imposed enough sanctions on the other side ‎to make it stop."‎

Commenting on a suggestion made by the heads of some ‎of the Gaza-vicinity communities, to hire Gazan to ‎work in their fields so as to mitigate their dire ‎economic situation, Hasson ‎said, "How am I supposed ‎to trust people who burn my fields, vandalize their ‎side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which ‎vital goods are delivered, and open fire on the ‎Karni crossing, used by Palestinian patients to ‎travel to hospitals?" ‎

Ofer Lieberman, who oversees field crops at Kibbutz ‎Nir Am, said the residents and farmers "are helpless ‎against this phenomenon. We try to minimize the ‎damage caused by the fires, but it's just crazy. It's ‎not just farmland that's being destroyed is the ‎vegetation around us. I hope the state will ‎compensate us for both direct and indirect damages."‎

Danny Ben David, head of the Western Negev Region at ‎the Jewish National Fund, said, "We carry out daily ‎assessments of the damage and it's very frustrating ‎because we have no idea when this [kite campaign] ‎will end, or how. Each one [kite] causes hundreds of ‎thousands of shekels in damages and we deal with ‎dozens of them every day." ‎

The military said it was working on countermeasures ‎against the incendiary kites, with one official ‎saying that drone technology is tested daily against ‎them.‎

"We have the ability to tangle the kites' lines and ‎bring them down where they can't cause any damage," ‎Col. Nadav Livneh, head of the IDF's Testing and ‎Quality Assurance Unit, which is part of the GOC ‎Army Headquarters' Technology Division, told Channel ‎‎12. ‎

‎"When you think of the financial issue, it's not ‎just about the damage to the fields, it's about the ‎trauma caused to the residents of the border-‎adjacent communities. If there is anything we can do ‎to minimize this damage, we'll do it," he said.‎

Nikki Guttman and Israel Hayom Staff


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