Israel strikes at launchers of burning kites from Gaza Strip




 

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck a vehicle early Sunday belonging to someone who sent burning kites into Israel from Gaza.

No one was injured in the strike, but it marks an escalation in Israel's response to a phenomenon that has wreaked havoc on agriculture in southern Israel in recent weeks. Burning kites set fields ablaze in more than a dozen locations on a hot, windy, dry Saturday.

Gazans began flying kites with burning rags attached to them during the mass protests against the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the territory. Israeli troops have fired on the protesters, killing more than 100 since the weekly demonstrations began in March. The Israeli military says militants have used the protests as cover to carry out attacks and to try to breach the border fence.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, has led the protests. Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for the fires.

While Israel has been mostly successful in thwarting militant infiltration attempts and rocket fire, it has struggled to stop the low-tech kites drifting into its territory. A parliamentary committee last week said the fires have destroyed more than 6,000 acres of land in recent weeks, causing some £1.5 million in damages. Israel says it plans to deduct from tax funds it collects for the Palestinians to compensate farmers.

The military says its drones have been able to shoot down more than 90 per cent of the kites and flaming balloons, and that it will continue targeting them.

Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett compared the kites to rockets, and said the response should be the same. "We should not wait until Israeli citizens are hurt and only then wake up," he said.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli police evicted Jewish settlers from 10 homes they had built in violation of Israeli law.

Israel captured the West Bank along with east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and today about 600,000 settlers live in those areas. Most of the international community considers settlements to be either illegal or illegitimate.

Israel's Supreme Court often rules that structures built illegally have to be evacuated and demolished. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 11 officers were wounded in scuffles and that police arrested six protesters for violence.

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