The Palestinians’ Kite Jihad
In the history of weaponizing the mundane, no one beats the Palestinians. When they have been unable to acquire conventional weapons, they have resorted to the unconventional — such as kitchen knives and screwdrivers. When unable to acquire conventional vehicles of war, they have resorted to the unconventional — such as cars, truck, and even bulldozers.
In the latest round of attacks against Israel — the “March of Return” — they have yet again demonstrated ingenuity by weaponizing the simplest of children’s toys: the kite.
Their method involves fashioning a wire tail onto a kite, with an explosive attached to it. The kite is then flown from the relative safety of the Gaza side of the border into Israel. Once it has reached far enough into Israeli territory, the string is cut and the kite — explosive attached — falls into Israeli territory.
Recalling the success of the November 2016 fire jihad, some of the kites have been used to deliver incendiary devices, while others have used explosives. Some of the weaponized kites are made to resemble the Palestinian flag, while others more ominously feature swastikas.
Reporters from the Agence France Presse (AFP) found Palestinian children boasting of their new “means of struggle,” one of whom enthused: “They [the IDF] are firing explosives bullets and tear gas, we are flying kites to burn the farmland.”
On Tuesday, April 17, one such weaponized kite — with a Molotov cocktail attached — started a fire in a field outside Kibbutz Be’eri, several miles into Israeli territory. According to The Times of Israel, it took four teams of firefighters to put out the fire, which had spread over nearly 25 acres.
Using toys as weapons recalls the tactic that the Soviet Union used against the children of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The idea was to maim, but not kill, Afghan children in order to fill hospital beds that therefore couldn’t be used to treat mujahideen fighters attacking Soviet troops. So the ingenious minds of Soviet scientists designed bombs disguised as toys.
In 1985, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights — which was inquiry conducted by an Felix Ermacora — asserted that many Afghan “children had been very seriously wounded, having their hands or feet blown off, either by handling booby-trap toys they had picked up along the roadway, or by stepping on them … booby-trap toys encountered include those resembling pens, harmonicas, radios or matchboxes, and little bombs shaped like a bird. This type of bomb, consisting of two wings, one flexible and the other rigid, in the shape and colors of a bird, explodes when the flexible wing is touched.”
After the Russians were expelled from Afghanistan, the Taliban infamously forbade Afghan children from playing with kites which they deemed “un-Islamic.” Yet they too came up with ingenious ways to disguise weapons, especially bombs — for instance, in turbans. Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council, was assassinated by a Taliban bomber who defeated security measures by hiding explosives in his turban.
Al Qaeda has used the human body to disguise their bombs, either as suicide vests (which they learned from the Tamil Tigers) or by shoving bombs in their rectums. In Iraq, bombs were disguised as the pregnant abdomens of women, packing a larger payload that the slim vests.
The ingenuity displayed by jihad warriors to disguise their weapons shows just how adaptable they are, always a step or two ahead of Western thinkers in their deviousness. It also shows that the Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their children.
AFP reporters in Gaza not only found children willing to talk, but also adults, who had put the children up to their treachery. One said that the aim was “to destabilize, creating confusion,” and to “burn … crops.” A man named Jamal al-Fadi, identified as a professor of political science in Gaza, said that, “The Palestinian people, frustrated and desperate due to the Israeli siege … have had their hope renewed” by the new “means of struggle.”
If the Palestinians devoted a fraction of the ingenuity they have shown in devising and hiding weapons to diplomacy, compromise, and to building in the territory that Israel abandoned in 2005, they would be far closer to achieving the state they crave. Unfortunately, they prefer killing over negotiating, protesting over compromising, and burning over building.
A.J. Caschetta is a Ginsburg-Ingerman fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.