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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Israel claims Gazans sent 'falcon' with flaming device into Israel

If true, it is the first time an animal has been sent from the enclave to ignite fires

Israeli firefighters of the Nature and Parks Authority try to extinguish the forest fire at the Carmia nature reserve near Kibbutz Zikim, southern Israel, 16 July 2018. EPA
Israeli firefighters of the Nature and Parks Authority try to extinguish the forest fire at the Carmia nature reserve near Kibbutz Zikim, southern Israel, 16 July 2018. EPA

Palestinians have used kites, balloons and condoms to launch incendiary devices into Israel in recent months. Now, Isreal claims they have used a bird.

According to an uncorroborated claim by the Israeli authorities, Gazans attached a device at the end of a steel wire to the talons of a falcon on Monday and launched it with the aim of flying the kestrel into Israeli territory.

If confirmed, it would represent the first time that Gazans had used an animal in an attempt to drop the burning devices on Israeli territory.

The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority say the bird was discovered dead in a tree near the border with the coastal enclave, which has been crippled through a wide economic siege since 2007.

There was no comment from Palestinian authorities in Gaza regarding the claims.

“Apparently it’s not enough to destroy nature with kites,” the Israel Defense Ministry unit that deals with the Palestinians tweeted. “Now falcons are being used for terror as well.”

The falcon was reportedly equipped with a harness, which suggested that it was a trained hunting bird. It was also found near a fire that the authorities said had started in the nearby Besor National Park.

The Israeli body said it is considering an international complaint about the alleged use of an animal for what it deemed as “terrorism”.

Animals have long played a role in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. In 2015, Hamas claimed to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy off of its coast. Other Arab foes of Israel have accused the country of using animals to spy. In 2010, Saudi Arabia said a vulture fitted with a GPS transmitter was an operative of the Mossad spy agency.

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Since March 30, when a series of weekly protests against Israeli crimes began in the territory, Palestinians began launching rags doused in fuel to flying devices. Israel says the kites and balloons have caused wide-scale damage, burning some 7,000 acres, to southern Israeli land as its military has been unable to prevent them crossing the border.

Israel’s has responded with force to the new tactic, conducting air strikes against “squads” it says are responsible for the low-cost devices being flown into Israel.

It has also cut off fuel deliveries into Gaza through the crossing it controls into the territory, a move that Gazan factions warned would have dire consequences for Israel. The enclave, which hosts around two million people, already has a severe fuel shortage and only receives around four hours of electricity per day.

In the protests, Israel killed more than 120 Palestinians, many who were peaceful and were located far from the enclave’s border fence with Israel. The Israeli military largely aimed at the lower limbs of protesters in a bid to maim them. Hospitals in the enclave reported many cases of paralysed and wounded protesters, some who will not be able to walk for months, even years.

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