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Burning kites from Gaza scorch swathes of Israeli fields

Smoke rises from fields on the Israeli side of the Gaza border after Palestinians sent over a kite carrying a Molotov cocktail on April 17, 2018
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)

Large blazes broke out on Sunday in a kibbutz fields close to the Gaza border, said to have been sparked by an incendiary kite launched into Israel from the strip according to fire and rescue services.

Firefighters together with local residents of the Nir Am, Or Haner and Be'eri kibbutzim joint forces to extinguish the blaze that ravaged the land.

On Saturday in a separate incident also caused by a flaming kite, hundreds of acres of fields and a nature reserve near the border were scorched.

It was deemed by officials as the worst of the blazes yet in a string of incidents triggered by the "burning kite" tactic adopted by Palestinian protesters in recent months.

The fire destroyed some 500 to 740 acres of agricultural fields and parts of a nature reserve adjacent to Kibbutz Carmia before it was extinguished by firefighting teams consisting of dozens of firefighters and multiple aircraft.

Officials at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority estimated that at least one third of the Carmia reserve had been destroyed.

Arson investigators at the Carmia nature reserve said that the fire was likely set by an incendiary kite or a balloon filled with chemicals that dropped flames in the area, a Hadashot television news report said.

Mohammed ABED (AFP)

The launching of incendiary kites across the border from Gaza became a widely adopted tactic during the “March of Return” protests which kicked off on March 30 and have been ongoing for several weeks since.

Some 500 kites affixed to containers of burning fuel have been launched into Israeli territory since the protests began, sparking more than 270 blazes.

On at least one occasion, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has responded to such “kite attacks” by striking a Hamas post near the border fence.

Hundreds of acres of agricultural lands near the border have been set ablaze by the kites, causing millions of dollars in damages.

In response to the arson, Israeli farmers living adjacent to the Gaza border announced their intention last week to file a lawsuit against senior Hamas leaders at the International Criminal Court .

Local residents told Israel Radio they feared they would not receive compensation for the damages caused by the fires, as the onus lies with them to prove they were victims of a terror attack fell on them.

The ICC complaint comes in response to the Palestinian Authority’s filing of a referral at international court last week, which called on the international court in The Hague to “open an immediate investigation" into allegations of war crimes and apartheid against the Palestinian people.

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