The IDF is refusing to treat the Palestinian flaming kite and incendiary balloon assault on Israel as terror, although 20 fires rage day by day against a furious population. The nine air strikes the IDF mounted before dawn on June 18 were deliberately directed against Hamas military compounds – not the Palestinians actively producing and aiming the deadly toys. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott rejected demands by cabinet ministers to treat this form of wanton arson as terrorism, whose perpetrators should be directly targeted. He laid the following arguments before the cabinet on Sunday, June 17:
- There is a legal problem in defining kites and balloons as weapons which are a threat to life, he explained, creating a precedent: Never before has the IDF called in lawyers before launching a military operation for defending the country and addressing national security concerns. It begs the question: What if an exploding balloon lands on a home in Netivot or Sderot and people are killed or injured? Would the lawyers then take responsibility?
- This legal argument sounded especially contrived when considered in the light of the remarks a senior army officer made to the despairing victims watching these “non-weapons” reducing their farmlands and landscape to thousands of dunams of wastelands, while the IDF refused to step in. The officer warned them that a direct assault on the kite and balloon teams in the Gaza Strip would escalate tensions and generate a fresh round of rocket fire. He recalled suffering of the Israeli regions bordering on the Gaza Strip in the past and noted for good measure that the Hamas terror tunnels have not been completely overcome.
- The IDF spokesman was enlisted Sunday night to disseminate the following narrative: A direct, intense IDF operation against the balloon and kite crews and their controllers would spark all-out war with the Gaza Strip. And if the local leaders continued to press the army to stop the campaign, they would be responsible. Some generals go so far as to claim that tensions around the Gaza Strip have “eased of late” and the IDF is concerned to avert any more flare-ups. Raging fires in southern Israel are evidently not counted as such.