Charred cacti, incinerated turtles and snails, black bones of animals that could not escape the fire, thousands of acres of decimated fields. This has been the reality for much of the Israeli countryside adjoining Gaza for the past three months. From Jerusalem, I’d seen pictures of what has been happening since early June, when kites and balloons have been floated across from Gaza into Israel, carrying burning cloths or smoldering coal to land and set fire to whatever is there when they do.
It takes going down there to see and really feel what the effect of the flying incendiaries, which continue to land, has been.
The sight of the charred and blackened vegetation, trees and crops, and the strong smell of smoke and soot are all too powerful. No people have been injured, fortunately, yet, but the damage to wildlife is all too obvious to see.
Fire crews have little to no time to rest, and spend a lot of it, if not fighting fires, warning children and civilians not to touch anything unusual they see on the ground.
The IDF has been making efforts to stop the kites, but they have been making little headway. There have been drone strikes on those preparing the kites and balloons, but others have popped up. The airstrikes in Gaza’s populated areas this week were in part a response to the continued onslaught of kites, in addition to missiles fired from Gaza.
And the toll from the fires on the psyche of those Israelis living near the Gaza border has been dear.
“In April, we first encountered this new phenomenon,” Brouria Carny Hadass, who lives in Kerem Shalom, a kibbutz in southern Israel located on the Gaza Strip-Israel-Egypt border, told me. “Burning kites flying over us.”