Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gaza Border Communities Economically Battered By Kite Fires

Gaza border communities economically battered by kite fires 

Gaza border communities are facing a new type of attack unlike rocket salvos from Hamas. Today, flaming kites and explosive condoms have scorched farmlands in nearby areas, backed-up highways as police sappers close roads to defuse incendiary devices, and led to a wave of canceled guests at local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.

While the burning kites have yet to kill or maim any Israeli civilians, they are increasingly inflicting an economic toll.

The incendiary kites have led to at least 450 fires over the past month, torching some 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) of prime farmland and causing some $2 million of damage.

The flames have engulfed parks like Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund forests and the Besor Forest Nature Reserve – popular with hikers and tourists. The flaming kites have also damaged irrigation systems and harmed livestock.

In response, the Agriculture Ministry is offering to compensate farmers who have harvested wheat from May 18 to June 10 up to 60 shekels ($17) per dunam (quarter-acre). That has led to some farmers complaining about the arbitrary dates for compensation.

The Tax Authority is reviewing at least 15 claims to ascertain the damage caused by flaming kites, according to Haaretz. The overall damage is estimated at between NIS 3-4 million.

Earlier in June, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced that owners of guest-houses and hotels in both the Golan and near Gaza would be entitled to collect compensation for indirect damage due to tourist cancellations.

“In light of the security tensions in the North and in the vicinity of Gaza, we decided to compensate the residents who are involved in tourism.... We stand by the residents during these difficult times,” Kahlon said in a statement.

Both the Finance Ministry and Tax Authority came to an agreement to compensate owners during part of May and early June.

That time frame saw increased hostilities, with some 70 rockets and mortars fired at Israeli communities near Gaza in the course of a single day, May 29. In response, the Home Front Command issued new safety restrictions for the region.

The delicate security situation has led to a host of cancellations by both domestic and international guests.

The Tax Authority website provides claim forms for those affected who would like to receive compensation. The forms can be submitted by email or at the Tax Authority office.

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