Gazan terrorists test-fire rockets into the sea, setting off alert in southern Israel

Islamic Jihad armed wing says launches, days after border riots halted and amid uptick in Jewish visits to Temple Mount, part of drill simulating attack against Israel

Rockets are seen launched from the Gaza Strip toward the sea by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, October 3, 2023. (Dadi Fold/Courtesy)
Rockets are seen launched from the Gaza Strip toward the sea by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, October 3, 2023. (Dadi Fold/Courtesy)

A Gaza terrorist group test-fired several rockets from the coastal enclave toward the Mediterranean Sea Tuesday morning, setting off an alert in southern Israel, the military said.

The launches, claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, came days after Gazan groups halted nearly two weeks of escalating riots along the security fence, including balloon-borne incendiary devices lofted into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said the rockets were aimed at the sea and did not cross into Israeli territory.

Islamic Jihad’s armed Al-Quds Brigades confirmed carrying out a live fire drill “simulating raids on several Zionist military sites and fortifications,” in a statement posted to messaging app Telegram.

The group said the exercises included “advanced offensive maneuver at one of our sites with live ammunition, with the participation of elite forces, including missiles, artillery, armor, and intelligence.”

Footage from the Israeli side of the Gaza border showed the launches.

Due to the proximity of the launch site to the Israeli border, an alert on the Home Front Command application was activated in an open area in southern Israel, adjacent to the northern Gaza Strip.

Sirens did not go off in any towns in the region.

Palestinian terror groups frequently test-fire rockets toward the Mediterranean Sea, in order to improve range and accuracy, and also as an expression of the firepower they possess.

The drill came amid an increase in Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount over the Sukkot holiday, an issue that has galvanized attacks by Gazan groups in the past.

On Thursday, Israel reopened its main civilian crossing with Gaza as nearly two weeks of unrest halted, part of a reported Egyptian and Qatari-brokered deal with the ruling Hamas terror group.

A Palestinian demonstrator throws a tear gas canister back at Israeli forces during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on September 15, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Starting in mid-September, Palestinian youths held daily demonstrations on the border fence involving violent rioting and explosives. Groups also launched balloons attached to incendiary devices into southern Israel, sparking a number of fires.

Israel had responded with live fire toward the rioters and last week shelled several Hamas posts in Gaza from the ground and air. It also warned Islamic Jihad that it could step up its strikes, pointing to a surprise attack that killed a number of the group’s leaders earlier this year.

The sudden violence at the security fence had stoked fears of a wider escalation between Israel and Hamas, which have fought four wars and engaged in numerous smaller battles since Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

Palestinians set off explosions amid cross-border clashes with Israeli security forces near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on September 27, 2023. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Hamas has said that young Palestinians organized the protests in response to surging violence in the West Bank and alleged provocations in Jerusalem.

The unrest erupted shortly after Hamas’s Finance Ministry announced it was slashing the salaries of civil servants by more than half, deepening a financial crisis in the enclave that has staggered under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for the past 16 years.

Under arrangements stemming from past ceasefire understandings with Israel, the gas-rich emirate of Qatar pays the salaries of civil servants in the Gaza Strip, provides direct cash transfers to poor families and offers other kinds of humanitarian aid.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said last week that it had begun the distribution of $100 cash transfers to some 100,000 needy families in the impoverished territory. Disbursements for civil servants’ salaries have suffered delays since May.

Qatar’s representative in Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, said Thursday that the emirate had “succeeded in deescalating the situation in the Gaza Strip by mediating an understanding” to reopen the Erez Crossing for workers.

“The situation in the Gaza Strip is dire, and another conflict will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Gianluca Pacchiani and agencies contributed to this report.

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