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Israeli minister calls for targeted killings of Gaza kite bombers as fires rage

Palestinians prepare an incendiary device to attach to a kite to fly over the Gaza-Israel border fence on April 20, 2018
Mohammed ABED (AFP)
Israel readies for 'Naksa' protests this afternoon set to commemorate land captured in 1967 War

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan suggested on Tuesday that the army should begin assassinating Palestinians who fly burning kites from Gaza across the border, as well as Hamas leaders, as firefighters battled massive blazes sparked by the incendiary devices in the south.

“The fact that Hamas is enabling the shooting and the sending of the kites means we must return to targeted assassinations, and the kite launchers and Hamas commanders should be targeted for killing,” said Erdan during a visit to the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

“Our enemy is trying to harm civilian resilience because they understand that they cannot harm the IDF, but they will not succeed,” he added.

Close to where Erdan delivered his statement, Sapir College in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, became victim to the kite attacks. Heavy smoke engulfed the college building as firefighters arrived on the scene in order to contain the blaze. No injuries were reported.

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

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.

Around 600 kites affixed to containers of burning fuel have been launched into Israeli territory since the protests began, sparking more than 270 blazes. Hundreds of acres of agricultural lands near the border have been set ablaze by the kites, causing millions of dollars in damages.

“In recent weeks, IDF strikes have dealt a significant blow to the infrastructure of Hamas,” said Erdan, further noting that “every attack will be met with a severe response. Kite terror is very serious, and whoever sends them should fear for their life.”

Echoing Erdan’s comments, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaking at a Yisrael Beitenu faction meeting said: “It must be clear that we are not prepared to accept the kite routine, no riots on the fence, no attempts to break through the fence and cause damage to projects or sovereign Israeli territory.”

Liberman said that of the 600 kites launched in recent weeks, 400 were foiled “using technology”, whilst those that entered Israel burnt “about 9,000 acres of crops and forests.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to make the Palestinians pay after officials referred to an incident over the weekend deemed 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.

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

"I have instructed National Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat to advance a system to deduct from Palestinian Authority funds the compensation that Israel will pay Gaza border communities for the damage cause by recent arson attacks," Netanyahu tweeted Sunday.

On Monday evening, US Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt condemned the flaming kite tactic.

“Hamas attack kites are not harmless playthings or metaphors for free. They are deployed as propaganda & indiscriminate weapons. Since the recent outbreak of violence, Hamas attack kites have started fires, destroyed thousands of acres & wasted millions of dollars,” Greenblatt tweeted.

He also called for calm ahead of the “Naksa” or “setback” protests set to take place on Tuesday and said to those “plotting to provoke senseless violence and terror” that they will “once again be focusing on destructive narratives of the past.”

The protest are set to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel captured swathes of land from Jordan and Egypt, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Additional troops were to be deployed throughout the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

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