Israel closes Gaza crossing to fuel shipments in response to arson balloons

Gaza brush fire. (Photo: Times of Israel)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel froze fuel and gas shipments into Gaza though the main border crossing with Gaza over the continued arson kite and balloon attacks on southern Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman issued the order for the Kerem Shalom crossing on Wednesday August 1, 2018 after the flying firebombs sparked seven fires. Food, medicine and humanitarian aid will still be permitted to pass into Gaza. The crossing will be closed “until further notice,” Liberman said.

Kerem Shalom is the only crossing for commercial goods and the main crossing for humanitarian aid between Israel and Gaza.

The crossing was closed to all but humanitarian aid at the beginning of July, and partially opened last week after the number of incendiary kites and balloons launched toward Israel significantly decreased. That number has risen dramatically in recent days.

Palestinian protesters and rioters have been gathering at the border with Israel since mid-March as part of the so-called March of Return. The use of incendiary objects as a tactic began with the border protests.

Thousands of acres of farming land and natural forest have been consumed in the flames sparked by the incendiary devices.

Ten volunteer firefighters arrived in Israel this week from the United States to help battle the blazes.

The firefighters are in Israel under the auspices of The Emergency Volunteers Project, which trains and deploys to Israel volunteer emergency responders including fire, medical and community assistance. The project — one of three that have received funding from the Jewish Federations of North America to help deal with the recent wave of incendiary kites and balloons — includes volunteers in over 50 cities in 10 U.S. states.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to the Gaza border area to meet with the American and Israeli firefighters. That day, at least four fires broke out due to the arson balloons. Fifteen fires were reported on Tuesday.

The firefighters are from Baltimore, Maryland; Plantation and Hollywood, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and Los Angeles.

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