Gaza rocket strikes field in south; IDF tanks respond, hitting 2 Hamas posts

Projectile causes neither injury nor damage; earlier on Saturday, suspected explosive device lands in border community

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

Illustrative: Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza City toward Israel on November 12, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza City toward Israel on November 12, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired at least one rocket into southern Israel on Saturday night, striking an open field, the Israel Defense Forces said.

In response, IDF tanks shelled two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip, the military said.

According to the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, the projectile caused neither injury nor damage.

As the rocket was not heading toward a populated area it did not trigger sirens in Israeli communities. However, the Israel Defense Forces said, it set off alerts on cellphones in the area.

Earlier on Saturday, a suspected explosive device attached to a cluster of balloons that was apparently launched from Gaza was found in a field in the Merhavim Regional Council.

A group of foreign workers who were reportedly not aware the object could be a bomb picked up the balloons, but it did not explode.

The day before, terrorists in the Strip launched what appeared to be the warhead from a rocket-propelled grenade attached to balloons into southern Israel.

The suspected explosive was discovered in a field near Kibbutz Ruhama, northwest of Gaza, and police sappers were called to inspect the RPG warhead, according to Hebrew media.

Suspected explosive device found attached to balloons in the city of Ashkelon, February 5, 2020 (Israel Police)

It was at least the sixth suspected airborne explosive device launched from Gaza to be found in the south over the course of Friday.

In one of the instances, Route 3 in the south of the country was temporarily closed while sappers dealt with a suspicious object that appeared to have become detached from balloons.

There were no reports of injuries or damage. Police called on the public to alert authorities to any suspicious-looking objects and to refrain from approaching them.

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip began flying explosive and incendiary devices into Israel using clusters of balloons and kites beginning in 2018. The practice has waxed and waned over time, but has picked up considerably in recent weeks, with dozens of these balloon-borne bombs landing in towns and farming communities adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

The Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command on Friday released a poem for children warning them against the dangers of the balloon-borne bombs flown from Gaza.

In addition to being attached to colorful balloons, some of these explosive devices have also been disguised as other child-friendly objects such as books and soccer balls.

An explosives-laden soccer ball that was apparently flown from the Gaza Strip using balloons is seen in an open area of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council on January 23, 2019. (Courtesy)

Few injuries have been caused by these airborne attacks, but they have caused extensive damage to Israeli agricultural fields, parks and forests, especially during the country’s dry summer months.

On Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said the military would take a tougher stand against these airborne attacks, along with other types of terrorist activities.

In response to the launches, all of which have struck open fields in southern Israel, the IDF has conducted airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli defense officials believe that the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group is trying to increase pressure on Israel in a bid to extract greater concessions in ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

Fears have also mounted in recent days of an escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank following the release last week of a US peace plan that is seen as heavily favoring Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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