Merav Hania recalls the day her daughter stopped enjoying kindergarten—when balloons floated into her playground in Israel, the Washington Post reports. "Balloons!" the girl cried. But another child stopped her: "That's a bomb!" Sure enough, Emma huddled with other students inside as a police robot detonated the charge. And Emma hasn't felt comfortable at school since. "They are terror balloons. There is no other name," says the top police bomb-disposer in their district. "Their purpose is to terrify. But if it explodes near a person, near a child, it can kill." So far explosive balloons and kites have caused fires that burned thousands of acres of wood- and farmland since they began floating over in 2018, per the Times of Israel.
The kites were in retaliation for Palestinian protesters shot dead by Israeli snipers, but no floating bombs have caused death or injury—except among militants wounded in assembling them. "We are not intending to kill children," says a 30-year-old Gaza man. "From our experience, it has never hurt a child on the other side. Our aim is to break this siege." Meanwhile, Hamas is negotiating with Israel to ease life in Gaza and perhaps enlarge an offshore area where Gazans can fish. But the balloons keep coming: They are "a way for them to go to their base and say they did not give up the fighting that is at the core of their existence," says a Palestinian analyst. "This is how they feel dialogue should be conducted, not just in some hotel rooms in Cairo, but on the battlefield." (Read more Israel-Palestinian conflict stories.)