A kite flies over the border in an area where kites and balloons have caused blazes, between Israel and the Gaza strip June 8, 2018. . (photo credit: AMIR COHEN – REUTERS)
The Israeli Jewish Congress, together with Knesset Deputy Speaker MK Hilik Bar, have launched a global campaign to draw awareness to the Gaza kite fires which are ravaging southern Israel.
IJC executive director Arsen Ostrovsky told The Jerusalem Post that his their focus is predominantly, though not exclusively, on Europe, where there has been virtual silence on the arson campaign.
“Our social media campaign, which has been launched under the banner #IsraelUnder- Fire, has been timed to coincide with the FIFA World Cup finals, noting the 30,000 dunams scorched is equivalent of about 5,000 soccer fields,” he said. “IJC is seeking to draw attention to not only the grave ecological disaster caused by these incendiary kites and balloons, but to also underscore that these are not toys, but rather acts of environmental terrorism designed solely for the purpose of inflicting damage and harm, having already scorched thousands of precious acres of land and wildlife.”
Since April, thousands of incendiary kites and balloons have been launched as part of a new terrorism strategy orchestrated by Hamas.
“It cannot be that the international community, particularly in Europe, continues to turn a blind eye to this latest wave of Palestinian terrorism emanating from Gaza,” Ostrovsky said. “With the world’s attention currently focused on the FIFA World Cup final, we thought this was an important opportunity to underscore the gravity of the situation and ecological damage caused by these fires, by highlighting the fact that 30,000 dunams of land is equivalent of about 5,000 soccer fields.”
A poster created by the Israeli Jewish Congress showcases the damage done by Hamas kite terrorism (Courtesy)
Ostrovsky added that the IJC, together with our allies and partners around the world and in Israel, led by Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Hilik Bar, have launched this important campaign “to raise awareness and call for action regarding this unacceptable situation.”
Bar – who is also chairman of the European Forum of the Knesset, as well as chairman of the Lobby for Two-State Solution – wrote to several hundred parliamentarians across Europe, as well as leading officials and diplomats, raising awareness about this situation and calling for action.
In the letter, he said that as someone who has devoted his life to advancing the two-state solution, “This [kite terrorism] is simply not the way to advance peace or the sign of someone who seeks to end the conflict.”
Bar said that some of these balloons and kites, which have been attached to firebombs and Molotov cocktails in order to inflict maximum damage, “have even landed in residential areas, including homes and children’s play areas in backyards.”
“Let there be no misunderstanding. These balloons and kites are not toys,” he wrote. “They are instruments of terrorism, designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to inflict damage and mass carnage.
“It is also part of the Hamas-orchestrated campaign of terror over the last three months, seeking to infiltrate Israel from Gaza. The residents in southern Israel, who are already forced to live under constant threat of rockets and mortars from Gaza, now also have to contend with this new wave of terror.”
He made it clear that Israel, “like every sovereign nation, is entitled under international law to take whatever steps necessary to defend our people and protect our land. No one should be forced to live under such unbearable circumstances.”
Bar added it was most regrettable that only a few voices in Europe have condemned these incendiary balloons and kites, whereas many have not hesitated to accuse Israel of “excessive force” in defending “ourselves from the recent Hamas-led violent attempts to infiltrate communities in the south to commit acts of terror.
“As a friend of Israel, who I know also shares our yearning for peace with our neighbors, I respectfully ask for you to speak out in your parliaments and media, to unequivocally condemn this environmental terror, and to call on the Palestinian leadership to halt these attacks, not burn the hopes for peace,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, an emergency fund has been started by several Jewish groups in Canada to assist Israel’s southern communities and provide them with the necessary firefighting equipment to combat the kite and balloon fires quickly, and prevent their spreading.
The fund, which is called Terror Kites – Israel Emergency Fund on Facebook, has also garnered support from the Federation CJA in Montreal.
Money raised will be used to purchase 750-liter fire-fighting trailer units that are pulled by a tractor and allow farmers to reach fires in their fields well in advance of regional fire trucks. Each trailer costs $11,000.
Additionally, fire-fighting suits are required for the farmers who go out to battle the blazes. Each suit cost $1,400.
On Thursday, a newly-donated fire-extinguishing trailer unit was delivered to the community of Ibim in the Sha’ar HaNegev region.