Gazan terrorists launched arson balloons toward Israel on Monday and set fire to a wheat field in the south, the first such officially documented attack since Operation Guardian of the Walls. There have been other suspicious fires that local farmers blamed on arson balloons.
Firefighters from the Southern District fought the fire in the field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area. Crews worked to extinguish the fire and prevent the fire from spreading until control was achieved.
An Ashkelon Station Fire and Rescue Investigator determined from the findings that the fire was most likely caused by an incendiary balloon.
Israel has yet to respond to the attack.
Defense Minister Benny Benny Gantz stated after the recent operation that Israel would not tolerate such attacks. Israel has yet to respond.
Gantz briefed some 50 members of the Foreign Press Association in Israel on Monday in Jerusalem, and gave a strategic overview of regional security challenges, reviewed the recent Gaza campaign and outlined steps going forward.
Gantz shared slides showing Hamas launching sites embedded within civilian populations, and details of Israel’s tactics of precision strikes in Gaza.
Discussing the threats on Israel’s northern border, he said that “Iran is supporting proxies and militias in Syria and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, including with precision missiles.”
“Lebanon is a major security challenge since it has some 100,000 missiles embedded within its own civilian population and aimed at ours. We have excellent intelligence there, and I have full confidence that Hezbollah would take a serious hit were a threat to our country escalate there, but there would also be damage to Lebanon because as an autonomous State of Lebanon must be held responsible for any activity on its soil,” he explained.
He noted that “it has been a quiet 15 years from Lebanon and I suggest it stays that way, but we will exercise our operational superiority – we have the means to respond if that becomes necessary to protect our citizens. We have far greater intelligence vis-à-vis Hezbollah than we did in 2006 and are going to be by far more effective than we were then. I suggest that Lebanon not test us. I hope they won’t because it would take them back years.”
He discussed Iran’s subversive role in the region and related to a potential nuclear deal.
“Iran is a global problem, a regional problem, and, finally, an Israeli problem. We support an agreement that will include effective monitoring and halt Iran’s subversive and destabilizing attempts to disseminate arms to its proxies throughout the region,” he said.
“Given the gravity of the threat we face, Israel will take whatever measures are necessary to protect itself and is prepared for any scenario that may arise,” he vowed.
“We are in favor of a good deal, but JCPOA is not a good deal. As it is currently being reengineered, a lot can be done, and I hope that it will be done, to make it more effective,” Gantz said.
On the recent Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, he remarked that “Israel was pushed into a war it was not interested in, Hamas cynically used the tension in Jerusalem to position itself politically vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority ahead of elections. Like any other country, we couldn’t allow our sovereignty to be violated. We couldn’t allow rocket fire into our capital.”
Meanwhile, “Hamas didn’t anticipate our reaction, nor did it anticipate the results. We achieved all of our goals: mainly to neutralize terror threats, while inflicting damage on Hamas’ capacity within Gaza. It was a very complicated campaign, because Gaza is a densely populated area. They aim for civilians from within civilian populations. We don’t have the luxury of doing nothing. It is a moral duty to our citizens,” he said.
Going forward, “the basic equation must change. We will not accept any breaches of our sovereignty. Retaliations will come at the right time. We cannot return to the previous reality, and this campaign was designed to change it,” he underscored.
On civilian damage and rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, he said that his position “in contending with threats has always been to act with military strength and moral superiority. Bringing back MIA soldiers and civilian hostages is also a humanitarian matter. We are committed to the humanitarian rehabilitation of Gaza.”
However, Israel “also needs to see reciprocity and desire on the part of the Palestinians to choose a path away from violence and toward resolution. We view the PA as a preferable and more moderate partner and are interested in seeing it strengthened in Gaza as well. The only way forward is to engage directly with one another. We should be able to see relations develop and with relations and engagement and increased governance, change is possible.”