Iron Dome activated near Gaza border in false alarm
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Iron Dome activated near Gaza border in false alarm

Sirens in border towns apparently triggered by heavy gunfire from the Gaza Strip reportedly aimed at Israeli drone; incident comes day after mortar shells fired at south

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

An operator walks by an Iron Dome missile defense battery near the city of Sderot in southern Israel on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An operator walks by an Iron Dome missile defense battery near the city of Sderot in southern Israel on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Iron Dome air defense system fired several interceptor missiles in a false alarm Thursday evening, apparently triggered by heavy gunfire inside the Gaza Strip.

The military said no rockets were fired out of the coastal enclave. Palestinian media reported that terrorists in the Strip had opened fire at an Israeli drone flying overhead.

The heavy gunfire triggered rocket sirens in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and surrounding communities of Ivim, Erez, Gavim, Mefalsim and Nir Am, sending thousands rushing to bomb shelters.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said a man and woman suffered light injuries that they sustained while running for cover.

Residents of southern Israel shared videos on social media of the Iron Dome interceptor missiles exploding in the air, leading to initial false reports of a rocket attack.

The alarms came a day after terrorists fired three mortar shells from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. The projectiles all fell short of the border, two of them hitting a home in the southern city of Rafah and lightly wounding seven people, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry. The third fell near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.

That attack did not trigger rocket sirens in any Israeli community, but set off alarms in an open field in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, a regional spokesperson said.

“A failed launch from the Gaza Strip was detected. It did not cross into Israeli territory,” the army said.

Tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip have been on the rise, following multiple rocket attacks last week.

Rockets have been fired at Israeli cities and communities multiple times this month — with most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or landing in open areas — drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.

On September 10, two rockets were launched at Ashdod and Ashkelon during a campaign rally in Ashdod by the prime minister, who was whisked off the stage by his bodyguards to take shelter.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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