Palestinians are flying ‘fire balloons’ into Israeli territory, report says

Palestinian protestors are sending flaming helium balloons into Israeli territory during the “March of Return” protests in Gaza, following similar stories last month of burning “incendiary kites” being flown and injuring protestors.

The tactic has resulted in thousands of acres of valuable farm land and nature preserves being burned, the Times of Israel reported.

The helium balloons outfitted with flaming material attached to a long string have been used for at least the last month and a half, but the tactic has more recently picked up traction. Approximately 4,300 acres of land have already been burned as a result of more than 250 fires during the last two months from both balloons and kites.

For now, the Israeli military says that it has yet to come up with a way to combat the threat of the flaming objects. Originally, a pilot program utilizing drones to shoot down the objects was in practice, but ultimately deemed a failure, Israel’s Kan TV said. Instead, Israel must resort to preparedness and a rapid response when fires do break out.

The biggest problem, authorities said, is that the fires have destroyed valuable farm land along with more than half of Isreal’s nature reserves. Farmers are tasked with digging out borders surrounding the fires in order to starve the flames out and save some of the land, and around 2,470 acres of parks and natural reserves have also been destroyed just in the last few weeks.

On Saturday, some 74 acres of the Carmia nature reserve burned in one of the largest individual fires since the start of the protests. The damage claimed one-third of the park’s total land area, and Israel’s Hadashot news reported that the blaze was likely started by a fire balloon.

Approximately 620 acres of Jewish National Fund forests have also burned, according to a spokesperson for the organization.

The fires will likely cost Israel millions of dollars in damages, with the Tax Authority estimating that the farmland alone will need more than $1.4 million to recover. The money will be paid out from the government’s fund for damage caused by terrorist activity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also announced that the government would withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority to cover the costs. The decision was met with some criticism by analysts who pointed out that the PA does not control the Gaza Strip, and punishing the PA for Hamas’ actions would likely encourage Hamas to continue with its fire-enduing tactics rather than stopping them.

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Another Senseless, Illegal Killing in Gaza by Israeli Forces

Israeli forces killed a 21-year old Palestinian woman, a volunteer paramedic, in Gaza yesterday:

A young Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border fence on Friday, in another day of protests and violence, Palestinian medical sources said.

Razan al-Najjar, 21, was shot near Khan Yunis in the south of the territory, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, bringing the toll of Gazans killed by Israeli fire since the end of March to 123.

According to Qudra, Najjar was a volunteer with the ministry, wearing the white uniform of a medic when she was shot in the chest.

Targeting medical personnel is strictly prohibited even in war, and it is nothing less than criminal to gun down a paramedic while she is trying to assist others. All of the illegal shootings have been outrageous and excessive, but the killing of this young woman seems particularly perverse and absolutely indefensible. Ms. Najjar’s killing is just the latest in a series of illegal shootings of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. As the report indicates, hers is the 123rd fatality from Israeli attacks on the protesters.

The New York Times had interviewed Ms. Najjar previously (video here), and they quote her in their story about her unlawful killing:

When we met her at a protest camp in Khan Younis last month, she said her father was proud of what she did.

“We have one goal,” she said, “to save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”

Ms. Najjar was helping to tend to the many thousands of Palestinians that are being injured in the Gaza protests when she was shot to death. She posed no threat to anyone. How could she have? She was dressed as a medic, and yet she was murdered anyway. What else do we call the deliberate shooting of an unarmed woman as she helps treat injuries?

The U.S. response to these killings all along has been to shift blame away from Israel, the obviously culpable party, absurdly pin responsibility for everything on Hamas, and to shield Israel from the consequences of its forces’ actions. Yesterday was no different. The U.S. vetoed of a Kuwait-sponsored resolution that condemned Israel’s illegal use of force against Palestinian protesters:

Kuwait’s draft resolution condemned the use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians” and demanded a halt to such actions.

The U.S. was unusually isolated on both this resolution and the one our government sponsored. Just as the U.S. was the only member of the Security Council voting against the Kuwait-sponsored measure, it was the only voting for its own lopsided resolution. Reflexive U.S. support for anything and everything Israel does cannot possibly be in the American interest, and it is a disaster for the people of Palestine.

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