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Air raid sirens sound in south due to malfunction

Alarms heard in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Yavne; incident comes amid heightened tensions on the Gaza border

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A woman and child take cover as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, on a road between Ashkelon and Sderot, southern Israel, on May 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A woman and child take cover as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, on a road between Ashkelon and Sderot, southern Israel, on May 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Air raid sirens blared in a number of cities in southern Israel on Thursday in what the Israel Defense Forces said was a false alarm caused by a “technical malfunction.”

The military said the malfunction occurred during a “routine test of the alert system.” It added: “During this test and afterward, there was no damage to the operational capacity of the alert system.”

The alarms were heard in the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Yavne, along with other communities in Israel’s Shfela region.

The Ashkelon municipality sent out a message to residents after the sirens, telling them that they appeared to have been caused by a “regional malfunction.”

Tensions along the border have risen in recent weeks over growing unrest in the Strip at the slow progress of reconstruction following May’s 11-day conflict, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

The past month has seen a return of balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from Gaza into Israel, causing at least nine fires on Monday alone, as well as a rocket attack on Sderot last Monday — the first such attack since May — that was apparently in response to the deaths of four Palestinian men in a gun battle with IDF troops in the northern West Bank city of Jenin the night before.

On Saturday, Palestinian terror groups organized a protest along the border, which saw dozens of rioters rush the security fence, apparently catching the Israeli troops stationed there off-guard. One man with a pistol opened fire into an IDF sniper position along the barrier, hitting a border guard in the head and critically wounding him. Forty-one Palestinians were injured during Saturday’s riot, including a Hamas operative who later succumbed to his wounds.

A similar demonstration was held on Wednesday, though Hamas operatives prevented serious violence along the border. Over 1,000 people took part in the demonstration, burning tires and with small numbers of rioters occasionally rushing the security fence before quickly retreating.

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