IDF deploys more Iron Dome batteries to south and Tel Aviv area

Military calls up some reservists from air defense units, following large exchange of fire over the weekend

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

Israelis watch an Iron Dome missile defense battery stationed in southern Israel on July 14, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israelis watch an Iron Dome missile defense battery stationed in southern Israel on July 14, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The military on Sunday announced that it will be deploying additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries in southern Israel and in the greater Tel Aviv area, following large-scale clashes with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

Reservists from air defense units were also called up to provide additional manpower for these batteries, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“The IDF is determined to continue to defend citizens of Israel and is prepared for a variety of scenarios that may intensify,” the army said.

The air defense reinforcements were a precautionary measure, as the potential remained for renewed violence despite a ceasefire reached on Saturday night that largely appeared to be holding.

The Israeli military said it would take harsh action in response to any attack from the coastal enclave, including in the form of incendiary kites and balloons, and was bracing for possible retaliation by Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, the security cabinet ordered the IDF to respond forcefully to any case of Palestinians flying incendiary kites and balloons into southern Israel.

As of 5:45 p.m. Sunday, the military said its aircraft had fired shots at three such cells. Injuries were reported in at least two cases.

Despite the more aggressive stance by the IDF, multiple fires were reported in southern Israel on Sunday due to incendiary devices flown over the fence, with firefighters and local security officers working to contain them.

Over the course of approximately 24 hours on Saturday and into Sunday, southern Israel and the Gaza Strip saw one of the largest exchanges of fire since the 2014 Gaza war.

Remains of a rocket fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that struck southern Israel near the Gaza broder on July 14, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A senior Israeli defense official would not directly comment on the reported ceasefire, but said: “Facts on the ground will determine our continued response.”

As of Sunday morning, the ceasefire appeared to be holding, despite two mortar and rocket attacks that looked like they could put it in jeopardy.

Authorities called for residents of southern Israel to “return to normal” and canceled all of the restrictions that the IDF’s Home Front Command had placed on communities in the area the night before, which called for residents to stay within sprinting distance of bomb shelters in case of rocket attack and limited the size of public gatherings.

Farmers, who had been required to coordinate their movements with the local military brigade, were also cleared to work in their fields freely.

A picture taken on July 14, 2018, shows a smoke plume rising following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

“It is a full return to normal,” an army spokesperson said.

The decision was seen as an indication that the military believed the cessation of hostilities will continue to hold.

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