Message in a balloon: Hamas threatens violence unless Israel allows Qatari aid

Amid now-resolved dispute over delayed entrance of Doha-purchased fuel into Gaza, terror group gives apparent approval for arson attacks along the border

Masked Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists prepare incendiary balloons east of Gaza city, to launch across the border fence towards Israel on June 15, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

In the context of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Hamas have developed several methods of communication to circumvent their official lack of direct contact. One of the terror group’s preferred means of getting a message across to Israel has been balloon-borne incendiary devices.

Since the practice of launching them began in 2018, such arson attacks have come to serve as an initial, limited way of indicating to Israel that Hamas is serious about its demands — now, as in the past, for Qatari aid to enter the Strip — and that it is willing to escalate tensions, potentially to the point of combat, in order to see them fulfilled.

Throughout the day on Sunday several balloons sparked brushfires in southern Israel, which were quickly extinguished by Israeli firefighters.

 

The balloons are typically not launched directly by Hamas operatives, but by smaller groups on the border. However, as Hamas maintains strict control over the frontier, it has to give at least tacit approval for the arson attacks, if not explicitly order them.

In response, Israel cut the Gaza fishing zone by half, from 12 nautical miles to six, and launched a series of late-night airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Strip.

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