Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

2018-04-20 18:04
Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail to during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. (Khalil Hamra, AP)

Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail to during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. (Khalil Hamra, AP)

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Palestinians protesting along the Gaza border have begun attaching Molotov cocktails to kites to fly over the fence into Israel in a new tactic as demonstrations enter their fourth week.

For protests set for Friday, Gazans were hoping to send dozens of kites over the fence, including some carrying notes telling Israelis "there is no place for you in Palestine".

On the eve of Friday's protests, a group of young people worked with coloured paper and empty coke bottles under a tree in an olive orchard hundreds of metres from the Israeli border east of Gaza City.

Some carefully created 60cm-long kites in the colours of the Palestinian flag. When completed, a metal wire was attached at the bottom linked to a liquid-filled bottle.

As AFP watched, three young men carried one kite dozens of metres towards the border before stopping to set the bottle alight.

With the flame lit, they sent it into the air and cut the thread – watching as it floated over the border and crashed, causing a small fire.

Sending a message

"We use the kites to send a message that we are capable of bothering the occupation," said 16-year-old Abdullah.

Since March 30, tens of thousands have protested along the border in the blockaded enclave calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their former lands in what is now Israel.

Smaller numbers have approached the fence, throwing stones and rolling burning tyres toward soldiers.

Israel says firebombs and explosive devices have also been used.

Thirty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and hundreds of others wounded by gunfire since March 30, according to Gaza's health ministry.

There have been no Israeli casualties, and Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to soldiers on the other side of the heavily guarded fence.

Israel has pledged to stop damage to the fence, infiltrations and attacks, and alleges there have been attempts at all three.

It accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

'Friday of Kites'

The protests are planned to last six weeks, but peak on Fridays.

Gazans have used stones, firebombs and fireworks during clashes, but have also employed tactics such as creating a smokescreen by burning tyres and Israeli flags.

Kites are now the latest, though they are small and unlikely to cause major damage.

Protest organisers have officially labelled Friday's protest in support of "martyrs and prisoners", but on social media some Palestinians have dubbed it the "Friday of Kites."

A small fire broke out in an Israeli farming area on Thursday afternoon near the border with central Gaza after a kite fell, witnesses said.

On Wednesday evening, about 20 young people were practicing flying kites attached to containers east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip.

"They (the soldiers) are firing explosive bullets and tear gas, we are flying kites to burn the farmland," said a 17-year-old, who did not want to be named.

Jamal al-Fadi, a professor of political science in Gaza, said weeks of protest had led to new "means of struggle".

"The Palestinian people, frustrated and desperate due to the Israeli siege and (Palestinian) divisions, have had their hope renewed," he said of the demonstrations.

One man east of Bureij who only gave his name as Murad said this week that he expected dozens of kites in the air for Friday's protests "to destabilise, creating confusion."

He said he hoped it would result in "burned crops".

"These crops can cost the enemy millions of shekels," he said.

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