Gaza rocket smashes into Israeli town near border, damaging home
'The kids are in shock, but we've got it under control'

Gaza rocket smashes into Israeli town near border, damaging home

Family had just returned home from lighting Hanukkah candles; 2 missiles fired at south, in latest upswing of attacks from Hamas-run Palestinian enclave

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

Police officers locate a rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip and struck southern Israel on December 17, 2017. (Israel Police)
Police officers locate a rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip and struck southern Israel on December 17, 2017. (Israel Police)

A rocket fired by a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night struck next to a home in an Israeli community north of the coastal enclave, causing damage but no injuries.

The army confirmed that two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip and that both struck inside Israel, in the Hof Ashkelon region.

Police said that one rocket hit inside an Israeli community, and the other struck an open field nearby, causing neither damage nor injury. The names of the communities were not immediately cleared for publication.

A photograph shared on social media showed damage caused to the house. An outside wall was charred and several concrete tiles surrounding the home were destroyed.

The family whose house was hit told the Ynet news site that they’d just gotten home from lighting candles for the Hannukah holiday with one of their grandmothers when the siren went off.

“We ran to the bomb shelter — me, my husband and our two sons, one 11 and the other 13 years old — and then there was a huge explosion,” Maya Dotan told the news site.

“Our door was damaged and my car was ruined by the shrapnel, but we’re okay. Unfortunately, we have lots of experience. The kids are in shock, but we’ve got it under control,” she said.

It was not immediately clear why the missile was not intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, an army spokesperson said.

The rocket launches set off sirens in the Israeli Hof Ashkelon region north of the Gaza Strip, including in the communities of Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai.

No terrorist groups immediately took responsibility for the attack.

There were no immediate reports of Israeli retaliation to the rockets. In general, the Israel Defense Forces responds to such attacks with airstrikes or tank shellings on Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip.

The rocket fire came two days after an attack in which a missile was fired at Israel, but fell short and struck a house belonging to an Egyptian family in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which acts as Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians. “Once again, the terror groups launch rockets at the residents of Gaza,” COGAT said.

A Hadashot news report said the rocket damaged the home of the brother of a senior Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri.

On Wednesday, a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza also fell inside the Palestinian territory and hit a public school, damaging a classroom, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, said at the time.

The window of a Gaza schoolroom hit by a failed rocket launch, December 13, 2017 (Facebook/COGAT)

Friday’s failed rocket launch came amid a large rise in the number of rocket attacks on Israel from the Strip over the past two weeks, including a volley that caused damage to an empty kindergarten in Sderot over a week ago.

A number of the rockets have been shot down by the Iron Dome system, indicating they had been heading for populated areas.

This has been the largest incidence of rocket fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. According to Israeli assessments, these rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip. However, analysts have noted that Hamas is either unwilling or unable to clamp down on the groups.

Illustrative: The trail of a missile launched by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, on August 22, 2014, from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The Israel-Gaza tensions have been fed by Washington’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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