(Bloomberg) -- One Palestinian was killed Monday and several were injured while trying to damage Israeli security installations at the Gaza Strip border, the military said, as it steps up its response to flaming kites that have burned thousands of acres in Israel’s south.
The army said five Gazans rushed the fence in an attempt to damage unspecified “security infrastructure.” One was killed and others were injured in an explosion, the army said, without giving more details. It wasn’t clear if the men were killed while planting a bomb; the army said soldiers didn’t fire on the group.
Hostilities along the border stepped up in late March with the launch of a Palestinian protest campaign in which more than 120 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops encountering violence. With turnout at the weekly demonstrations falling from 50,000 in mid-May to a few hundred last Friday, Gaza’s Hamas rulers increasingly are turning to kites carrying bombs, gas-soaked rags and other firestarters that the wind blows across the border into southern Israel.
The kites have burned more than 6,000 acres of Israeli fields and nature reserves, causing at least $2 million in damage, according to Israeli officials.
“Anyone who thinks it will be possible to continue sending kites and fires every day is mistaken,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. on Monday.
The army in recent days has begun firing warning shots near groups of Palestinians dispatching the kites and helium balloons. Overnight Sunday, the air force struck Hamas military targets and a weapons factory in what it described as its “most significant” response so far to the kite attacks.
Gaza militants, who last week threatened to send 5,000 kites across the border, fired three rockets at Israel in response to the overnight strikes. No one was injured in the exchange.
At least 30 fires were burning Saturday and Sunday, according to Israeli media. Haaretz reported that military officials oppose calls to target the people dispatching the kites, warning it could lead to escalation and even war.
Monday’s flare-up came a day after Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it busted a 20-man Hamas cell in the West Bank that was planning suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as shooting attacks.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.