IDF: Iron Dome fires mistakenly in response to Hamas drill

Incoming alarms sound throughout area surrounding Gaza Strip as system triggered by live-fire exercise within Strip; IDF retaliates with tank fire

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The smoke of a rocket fired by Palestinian Hamas is seen over Gaza City on March 25, 2018 as they take part in a military drill. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
The smoke of a rocket fired by Palestinian Hamas is seen over Gaza City on March 25, 2018 as they take part in a military drill. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

The Iron Dome missile defense system was apparently mistakenly activated by automatic gunfire within Gaza on Sunday, sending an unnecessary barrage of interceptors into the skies above southern Israel, the army said.

The launch of the interceptors also appeared to be responsible for the wave of missile warning sirens that went off in the southern regions of Hof Ashkelon and Shaar Hanegev earlier on Sunday night.

No rockets were fired at Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces. An army spokesperson stressed that the situation was normal along the Gaza border.

Yet the IDF retaliated to the apparent false alarm with tank fire aimed at two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.

The late night sirens and Iron Dome launches were apparently set off by the live-fire military exercise being held by Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday.

Masked gunmen from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of the Hamas terror group, march with their weapons, during a large-scale drill across the Gaza strip, Sunday, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

In a statement, the IDF said it “takes seriously all types of fire aimed at Israeli territory,” indicating the tank fire may have been fired under the mistaken belief the live-fire exercise had been aimed at Israel.

The incident highlighted rising tensions along the Gaza border.

An IDF spokesperson said the military would investigate the technical reason why the Iron Dome and alarm systems were activated in order to ensure that such an event does not repeat itself.

Videos filmed by residents of southern Israel showed the launches of multiple Iron Dome interceptor missiles into the night skies.

Tensions have been on the rise between Israel and the terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave in recent weeks, following a number of security incidents along the security fence.

On Saturday, a group of four masked Palestinian men entered Israeli territory after cutting through the chainlink fence and tried to set fire to the heavy engineering vehicles that are being used to construct a new above- and below-ground barrier around Gaza.

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