Photo Credit: Atia Mohammed/FLASH90
Masked Islamic Jihad man prepares incendiary balloons east of Gaza city, to be launched across the border fence into Israel, June 15, 2021.

The launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip continued on Thursday and probably won’t stop on Friday, the fourth day of continued attacks by Hamas squads. Eight fires broke out Thursday across the Jewish settlements of the Gaza Envelope as a result of those balloons. Four of those fires broke out in the Eshkol Regional Council area and one in a field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi issued a situation assessment in which he instructed the military to increase its readiness, and warned that the IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios, including the resumption of hostilities, “in the face of continued terrorist operations from the Gaza Strip.”

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Israeli fighter jets attacked Hamas rocket launchers and military compounds in Gaza and Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip in response to the incendiary balloons. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in response to the bombings that it was a “demonstration of power by the new government,” and added that “the resistance movement will be on guard to protect our people.”

Arab media reported that Hamas had managed to shoot down an unmanned IDF aircraft in the Gaza Strip. They also reported that Thursday’s attack was more widespread than usual. Fourteen targets were attacked, including a training camp at Beit Lahiya and rocket launch pits. They also reported an attack on the Hamas Civil Administration building, which the IDF spokesman did not mention.

Israeli firefighters in the Simhoni forest fight a fire caused by incendiary balloons, June 15, 2021. / FLASH90

Nevertheless, one month after Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas is still not deterred. How do we know? Because following that particularly powerful bombing raids by Israeli planes, a Hamas force fired its machine guns into the Gaza Envelope settlements, the kind of shooting the Iron Dome system is unable to stop.

If Hamas were deterred, the residents of Kfar Aza would not have had to return to the bomb shelters on Thursday night.

Also, the apparently undeterred Hamas is also threatening to escalate the conflict if Israel commits a “foolish act.”

When asked after the ceasefire what would happen if incendiary balloons would start floating into Israel from Gaza, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, then still a senior partner in the Netanyahu government, replied: “I mean that reality will change and I will adjust the policy accordingly. What was will no longer be.”

Reality did change and the scattering of balloons was transformed on Thursday night into machine-gun fire on Jewish homes. It was only to be expected that Arabs who burned down Jewish fields would eventually also fire on Jewish homes. You knew it, I knew it, but it seems that the Bennett-Lapid-Gantz government did not foresee such an escalation, otherwise it would have pushed up the meeting of the Political-Security Cabinet, which was scheduled for Sunday instead.

And speaking of Bennett, a brief digging into past newspapers yielded a brief report in Maariv from June 20, 2018 (בנט: להפסיק לירות ליד המחבלים, ולירות במחבלים):

Then-Education Minister and member of the Political-Security Cabinet Naftali Bennett said about the way the incendiary balloons squads should be dealt with:

“I understand that there are ministers who disagree with what I’m trying to promote, and I have not yet succeeded. But the reality is that these are not children, and anyone who uses a killing tool should be treated as a terrorist. These are not children. These are not empty areas, it’s near Sderot. They also landed in Sapir College. It’s not happening in China, it’s here, in Israel.
“A kite carrying an explosive that lands in a kindergarten will bring on a disaster. I will not give up until we adopt a new policy, stop shooting near the terrorists, and shoot the terrorists. Restraint breeds escalation. The minute we restrain ourselves, we signal that it is permissible and that kites and balloons are not counted, and so they shoot more of them. Then it leads to escalation. To achieve deterrence, we must act with great force.”

Someone needs to arrange an urgent meeting between Naftali Bennett from June 20, 2018, and Naftali Bennett from June 18, 2021. Even when he was briefly appointed Netanyahu’s defense minister at the end of 2019, Bennett was unable to apply his deterrence scheme against Hamas in Gaza. He used his well-conceived deterrence strategy only once as defense minister: on February 23, 2020, the IDF killed two Islamic Jihad terrorists who were trying to place an explosive device near the border fence with the Gaza Strip.

The reader should know that in an anonymous IDF base near the Gaza border, excellent female soldiers are attached 24/7 to monitor screens from which the entire strip is visible. They know the whole area by heart and alert the Air Force and the IDF Command every time someone there comes out of his hole in the ground and tries to harm Israel. The skies over the Gaza Strip are full of Israeli drones that transmit information to those female soldiers in real-time. Had the Bennett government been interested in eliminating the squads flying the incendiary balloons before they had a chance to let them take off, they would have long ago been turned into piles of flesh, broken bones, and blood.

The problem is that the Bennett-Lapid government, just like the Netanyahu government, is deterred from using the excellent deterrents in its possession.

Alon Davidi, who retired from the Yamina party before the Bennett government was sworn, resumed his post as mayor of Sderot in the Gaza Strip Envelope, and declared: “If the Prime Minister or any member of the government allows one incendiary balloon or one rocket and the State of Israel does not respond with great force, it would mean one thing – there’s the State of Israel and there’s the State of the Gaza Strip Envelope.”

If Bennett-Ganz-Lapid had killed a squad or two of balloon-fliers, the nightmare would have ended. But when there’s no connection between the retaliatory action against this or that Hamas ditch and the balloon squads themselves, what’s the wonder that there’s no deterrence? Eliminate the balloon fliers. The IDF has a lot of armed drones that can do this today.

What are they waiting for?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.