My Word: ‘Fire falcons’ and the fight-or-flight dilemma

It was a new twist in the current environmental warfare launched on Israel from Gaza. And it doesn’t come much more twisted than this. After hundreds of kites, balloons and even helium-filled condoms attached to incendiary devices have scorched vast areas of agricultural land, woods and nature reserves, Hamas this week came up with a new weapon. Forget the dogs of war and meet what was quickly dubbed “the fire falcon.” On July 16, an Israel Nature and Parks Authority official discovered the body of a common kestrel hanging in a tree, trapped by a harness linked to steel wires and flammable material. The dead, and deadly, bird was found following a blaze in Habesor National Park.

Some 2,500 acres of land in nature reserves and national parks close to the Gaza Strip have been burned since the “Fire War” broke out around three months ago, according to an INPA official. It’s a fraction of the overall damage caused by Hamas’s scorched-earth policy.

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As The Jerusalem Post’s Ilanit Chernick reported on July 15, the Israeli Jewish Congress together with Knesset Deputy Speaker MK Hilik Bar launched a global campaign to bring home the scope of the damage, using figures that people could identify with especially as the World Cup drew to a close. Under the banner #IsraelUnderFire, the IJC campaign noted that overall, 7,500 acres of land have been scorched, roughly equivalent to 5,000 soccer fields.

IJC executive director Arsen Ostrovsky told Chernick that their focus is predominantly on Europe, from where the response to the arson war has been a resounding silence.

It is silence that echoes amid the devastation of local flora and fauna. The kestrel itself likely suffered from the fires as the rodents and other small animals that make up its preferred diet have been wiped out in blazing fields.

I have written about it several times because I am haunted by the images of the wildlife that couldn’t escape the flames. Until this week, I hadn’t considered the possibility that Hamas terrorists would deliberately try to set an animal alight in an attempt to cause even more damage.

“What kind of person thinks of attaching incendiary devices to kites and balloons, to children’s toys?” a Palestinian colleague asked me rhetorically last week, as shocked as I was at the latest weapons employed by Hamas and their Islamic Jihad partners.

Perhaps the “fire falcons” shouldn’t have surprised us. Hamas consistently uses children as human shields, stockpiling and launching rockets from schools. Even now, in a form of child abuse, kids are being used to launch the incendiary kites. From Hamas’s point of view it’s perfect. Either Israel hits the children, creating an instant PR victory, or the fires destroy “Zionist” land, creating a morale boost for the terrorist organization. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.