More Than 32,000 Dunams Destroyed by Balloon and Kite Terror Fires

YERUSHALAYIM -
kite fire
A fire started by flaming Palestinian kite burns in Israel near the Gaza Strip in June. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

Although they are occurring at a less frequent pace, the fires caused by terror balloons and kites dispatched to Israel by Gaza terrorists have not ceased. Over the weekend, a balloon loaded with explosive material landed in the backyard of the home of MK Chaim Yellin, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel. “I am not upset that a balloon landed in my yard, I am upset that the cabinet has no clear policy against this terror. Those who don’t know what they want in Gaza and do not develop a strategy, cannot beat terror.”

On Friday, residents of Kiryat Gat reported that several balloons with explosive material landed in the yard of a kindergarten. B’chasdei Shamayim, it did not go off, and police were able to dismantle it without incident. More balloons were later found in several other areas of the city. Those, too, did not go off.

Last week, a report on the ecological and economic damage caused by the fires – and they are substantial, the Nature and Parks Authority said in a report. So far, more than 32,000 dunams of forest and farm land have been destroyed – 12,086 of them in nature reserves, 9,873 in Jewish National Fund forests, 4,237 in agricultural lands, and 6,085 in open areas.

Fourteen percent of all the nature reserve areas in the Gaza border region have been burned, with the Be’eri forest, directly adjacent to the Gaza border fence, the worst affected. 78 percent of that forest has been burned down, followed by the Curcur Nir’am nature reserve (77 percent burned), the Carmia Forest (50 percent destroyed), the Gvara’am Forest (30 percent), Upper Nachal Gerar (27 percent), and the Habesor Nature Reserve (21 percent destroyed). Altogether, the damage has reached NIS 15 million, the Authority said.

The latter area had been home to a large population of exotic Bee-Eater birds, members of the whistler family; all the birds have disappeared, either flown away or destroyed, the Authority said. The vast majority of turtles in the Be’eri Forest have been destroyed as well. Authority officials said that environmental groups have been “unusually quiet” about the damage.

“The damage to the environment has been very serious, and we need to take aggressive action to correct this,” said Gilad Gabay, director of the southern division of the Authority. “We need to intervene to protect the environment as soon as possible,” he added.