IDF: Iron Dome wasn’t meant to intercept Gaza rocket heading for open field
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IDF: Iron Dome wasn’t meant to intercept Gaza rocket heading for open field

Army spokesperson says recent uptick in violence from the coastal enclave stems from Hamas desperation

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

Illustrative photo of an Iron Dome Missile Defense battery firing an interceptor missile on August 9, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Iron Dome Missile Defense battery firing an interceptor missile on August 9, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Iron Dome missile fired on Wednesday night to intercept an incoming rocket from the Gaza Strip was redirected after it became apparent the projectile was headed for an open field and did not represent a threat to human life, the army said.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, a rocket was launched at southern Israel from Gaza, triggering sirens in a number of communities in the Eshkol region, ending a week-long stretch of relative calm in the coastal enclave.

An interceptor missile was launched from a nearby Iron Dome air defense battery. However, it was called off after air defense units calculated that the incoming rocket was heading toward an open field.

“The Iron Dome wasn’t meant to intercept the rocket that landed last night in Eshkol. [The rocket] was heading toward open land,” said IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, in an interview Thursday on Army Radio.

The Iron Dome system is only meant to intercept incoming projectiles when they present a threat to life or property. A successful interception can rain down bits of debris on a populated area and potentially cause more harm than a rocket bound for an empty patch of land outside a town.

Manelis said the recent uptick in violence in the Strip was due to the Hamas terror group’s desperation.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. (Israel Defense Forces)

“It has failed time after time in its attempts at terror — with the tunnels, with the rockets, with the terror attacks. And it will pay a heavy price in dead and wounded,” the spokesperson said.

“This terror is a challenge, but the army has stood up to more difficult and complicated challenges than this,” Manelis said.

In response to the late-night rocket attack, Israeli aircraft bombed eight Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The army said Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the north of the Strip and in the south, near the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah. There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.

The IDF said it hit eight targets at the three sites, including Hamas training bases and a weapons production facility.

The rocket attack on Eshkol ended a relative calm that has persisted in the Gaza Strip region following a flareup between the Hamas terrorist group and Israel last Wednesday, which was sparked by a rocket launched from the coastal enclave that struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

The rocket caused significant damage to the house, but no injuries as the mother inside rushed her three sons into their bomb shelter. A second rocket launched from the Gaza at the same time landed off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.

In response, the Israeli military launched a series of air raids against some 20 targets in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad publicly condemned the rocket launches, leading to the suspicion that the projectiles had been fired accidentally.

Egypt and the United Nations brokered a de facto cease fire between Israel and Hamas. Though low-level clashes have persisted, the past week saw a significant decrease in the level of violence along the border.

As a result of the relative calm, Israel on Sunday reopened Gaza’s goods and pedestrian crossings, which had been closed following the rocket launches, and on Wednesday a shipment of Qatari-funded fuel was allowed into the coastal enclave.

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