In the Gaza Envelope settlements, this week started with 10 fires, as southern Israeli was up in flames from Ashdod to Eilat. Fires are to be expected in Israel as the temperatures rise and the air becomes dry. But those 10 fires along the Gaza border—and more are expected this week—are the result of incendiary balloons shot over from the Gaza Strip, according to firefighting services.
All fires started within the Eshkol Regional Council area. The Nature and Parks Authority reported that large parts of the Be’eri Nature Reserve caught fire. The Be’eri Forest covers about 2,700 acres. It was planted by the founders of Kibbutz Be’eri in 1946. It is now mostly scorched earth.
The JNF, neighbors from the envelope settlements, the IDF, and the Nature and Parks Authority fought the forest fire the whole day Sunday. And there were other fires nearby, in Noam, Karmia, Mavkiim, Erez, and Sderot.
At noon, the fire from the incendiary balloons increased and reached the greenhouses of Kibbutz Be’eri, causing severe damage.
Shabbat also saw fires from incendiary balloons in the Eshkol Regional Council.
“We returned to the routine of fires after a break, it is very disturbing,” Maayan Schneur Fuld from Kibbutz Netiv HaAsara told the Walla website. “We are in early summer, the whole area around us is on fire, from every vantage point in the area we see fires. We’re afraid we’re going back to the days when we were running from one fire to the next.”
Schneur added that she feared the return of rocket fire, too, when “all night there were explosions that came from the area of the fence.”
“We expect an appropriate response, we are not ready to go back to rocket launches and balloon terrorism that don’t receive a response.”
On Sunday, an incendiary balloon led to the burning of a wheat field near Kibbutz Alumim. Rafi Babian, Sdot Negev Council Chief of Security, arrived to put out the fire. “It’s not pleasant to see a field of wheat sown with tears and grown with love burning down,” Babian told Walla. “There was a year’s lull in balloon terrorism and now we miss the quiet. It seems that when they want, they know how to control the flames.”
Babian added that “this is terrorism with visible results. In recent years they have managed to burn quite a bit. There are deployments of security and firefighting forces in the area, including Military Ongoing Security Coordinators (Ravshatzim) that are prepared for any fire scenario. The fires are returning.”