The Israeli Government Press Office released the statement below yesterday, with the photos attached, and the headline: “Kite Terrorism: GPO Foreign Press Tour of the Area Adjacent to the Gaza Strip Raises Global Awareness of New Threat.” We promise, this isn’t the Onion.
Very little has been written in the foreign press about the kite terrorism from Gaza which began two months ago and has burned almost 2,500 acres of agricultural lands and caused tens of millions of shekels in damage. When it has been written about, there have been sarcastic comparisons between “Palestinian kites” and “Israeli F-35s” in order to underscore the seeming lack of symmetry between the two sides and lessen the importance of the new wave of terrorism affecting the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip – that of kite-borne firebombs.
The Government Press Office, today (Thursday, 7 June 2018), held a tour that sought to balance the picture and increase global awareness of the phenomenon, which is aimed entirely at civilians. Over 30 foreign journalists participated in the tour including from German, Spanish, Turkish, Chinese and Japanese press agencies as well as Bloomberg and AP. Radio stations and journalists from – inter alia – Switzerland, Bulgaria, Brazil, Russia and South Korea also participated.
The tour began in the burnt, still-smoking fields several hundred meters from Kibbutz Or Haner where Fire and Rescue Service Spokesperson Yoram Levy briefed the journalists on the Fire and Rescue Service’s deployment to meet the threat posed by the new reality. At the service’s regional command center in Sderot, tour participants were briefed on the scope of the challenge in real time.
The tour continued to Kibbutz Nahal Oz, to a blackened, ash-covered hill overlooking the Shuja’iyya neighborhood a scant two kilometers away. Kibbutz spokesperson and veteran farmer, of over 40 years, Danny Rahamim (64), briefed the journalists on how farmers and residents are dealing with the phenomenon which threatens their livelihoods. “We will not budge from here. We will continue to work the land down to the last meter and we are also optimistic that it will be possible to achieve peace and stability,” he said. As he finished his remarks, two firefighters brought a Palestinian kite that had been captured nearby and showed how such a primitive, simple and inexpensive device could cause so much damage.
The commander of the IDF kite unit, Col. Nadav Livne discussed the IDF’s perspective and said that UAVs were quickly adapted to enable them to hunt kites. Between 450-500 kites have already been intercepted by the high-durability UAVs, which can attain speeds of over 150 kilometers per hour. A demonstration was held in which a UAV took off, accelerated and maneuvered. According to Col. Livne, reservists who specialize in flying UAVs have been mobilized and have succeeded in reducing the number of fires over the past week.
GPO Director Nitzan Chen said that in the framework of the struggle over content and headlines, the GPO would expand its public diplomacy efforts vis-à-vis the foreign press in Israel, part of which is trying to downplay the significance of the firing and the attacks on communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and portray the struggle as being between David and Goliath.