Up to 60 fire balloons sent from the Gaza Strip this week damaged hundreds of acres of Israeli land prompting Benjamin Netanyahu to warn that the IDF would “exact a heavy price” if it continued.
The incendiary balloons were sent from several locations and landed in the Beeri Forest and three kibbutzim, while a number of Bedouin families living close to the border were forced to evacuate, as soldiers and fire fighters battled blazes.
Netanyahu said: “I would like to make it clear to all of Iran’s proxies, including in Gaza: Balloon terrorism will have a heavy price. We will not tolerate this. We will take action and exact a heavy price. They should remember that we have done this in the past, because we will do it now as well.”
He said Israelis “view this with the utmost gravity” and mentioned both the ruling Hamas party as well as the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad in his warning, saying they would “see the harsh implications” if more balloons were sent.
IDF aircraft, including combat planes and helicopter gunships, retaliated by hitting several targets in the Strip, as Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing, although the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt reopened.
Local leaders of Jewish communities living near the Gaza border, including Sderot, issued a joint statement, saying: “The rule for an explosive balloon needs to be the same rule as for a rocket.”
It comes as the IDF begins deploying the ‘Lahav Or’ laser system on the Gaza border, which is designed to intercept airborne incendiary threats, by firing a beam at balloons or kites within a 1.5 mile radius.