Israel employs airstrikes and siege tactics in response to Palestinian incendiary balloons.
Rabat – Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza on Wednesday in response to incendiary “terrorist balloons” flown across the border. The border closure is part of Israel’s efforts to deprive Gaza of fuel that follows a campaign of retaliatory strikes using planes, helicopters and tanks.
Israel’s fuel blockade will have far-reaching consequences for Gaza, which relies on fuel for its one power plant that currently supplies citizens with six hours of electricity, followed by a ten-hour blackout.
By closing the sole entry point for goods between Israel and Gaza, the Israeli defense forces (IDF) appear to be reacting to “terrorist balloons” by effectively enacting a siege on the two million citizens of tiny Gaza.
The disproportionate military action forms the Israeli response to a few dozen balloon clusters connected to burning material that are sent into Israel in a primitive form of arson. Where previously Hamas would launch missiles, the tactic of using balloons could be considered a major deescalation, but the Israeli response has been anything but mitigated by this factor.
The government of Israel says “dozens of balloons” originating from Gaza have caused 80 fires in rural southern Israel. Firefighters have been putting out the flames and no casualties, or even injuries, have been reported.
In response to this primitive and ineffective form of arson, Israel has blocked fuel imports, halved the area where Gazans are “permitted” to fish, and launched devastating military attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the primitive incendiary devices as “terrorist balloons” and vowed “dire consequences” and promised to exact a “heavy price.”
The disproportionate imbalance of force between Gaza and Israel was ironically reinforced by Netanyahu’s choice of backdrop, as he was interviewed demonizing balloons while standing in front of a multi-million dollar F-16 IDF fighter jet.
Gaza has felt the force of Israeli retaliation in recent days. Airstrikes have hit targets in the tightly congested coastal city, which led to a missile hitting a school administered by the UN refugee agency. The Israeli military also has claimed to hit “Hamas naval units” as it announced Gazan fishermen will be blocked from half of their fishing grounds in retaliation to the acts of arson.
The use of incendiary kites and balloons hearkens back to military technology used by the Mongols during the conquest of Southern China.
The incendiary devices — or “explosive” devices, as the IDF calls them — aim to set farmland alight across the border. Israel has lamented their “environmental destruction.”
The destruction of farmland across Palestinian-Israeli borders is nothing new, however. Israel has been waging “herbicidal warfare” since 2014.
Israel has executed a structural campaign to destroy Palestinian farmland using planes spraying herbicides, according to Forensic Architecture, a research agency at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Arson attacks by Israeli citizens on Palestinian targets have been prosecuted as legal matters by Israeli courts, yet Palestinian arson appears to justify a bombing campaign and an economic siege of the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave. Israel appears to now use the balloons as justification to block humanitarian aid while Gaza continues to struggle with its COVID-19 epidemic.