Iron Dome intercepts two rockets fired at Israel from Gaza — IDF
A third missile hits open field near border

Iron Dome intercepts two rockets fired at Israel from Gaza — IDF

Incoming projectiles trigger alarms across southern Israel for the third night in a row, amid increasing tensions

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

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel on Wednesday, amid increased tensions in the south of the country following repeated attacks, the army said.

A third rocket fired out of the Palestinian enclave Wednesday night hit an open field in the Eshkol region, the military added.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage caused by the projectiles themselves, but two people were treated for anxiety attacks and a man in his 30s lightly injured his leg while running to a rocket shelter, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

Before the rocket fire, the Hadashot television news outlet on Wednesday reported that the Israeli military was planning to take “dramatically” more aggressive action in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, in light of the increase in the number of launches.

The rocket launches on Wednesday night triggered sirens that sent Israelis running for cover in the town of Sderot, as well as in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions, the army said.

A video filmed in Sderot showed the explosions in the air as an Iron Dome interceptor missile collided with an incoming rocket.

There were no immediate reports of Israeli retaliation to the rocket launches, but such a response was expected, in light of similar reactions to past attacks.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

This was the third night in a row, and the sixth night in a week, that rockets were fired at southern Israel. Once a type of attack that occurred on a monthly basis, rocket launches by terrorist groups in the Strip have occurred almost nightly in the past week, with Israel shelling targets in the Strip in response.

Over a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel since last Wednesday, the most since the 2014 Gaza war. According to Israeli assessments, these rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip.

In the three and a half years since the conflict, the IDF has generally employed a “tit for tat” system for dealing with rocket and mortar fire from the Strip, hitting targets in Gaza any time projectiles strike Israel.

The recent increase in rocket attacks have prompted politicians to call for harsher retaliations.

Palestinians survey the damage at a military facility belonging to the Hamas terror group in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip early on December 9, 2017, following an Israeli air strike in response to Gazan rocket fire. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

On Tuesday, a rocket struck an open field in the southern Israeli community of Netiv Ha’asara, causing neither injury nor damage.

In response, a few hours later, the air force struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Tuesday night attack came hours after Palestinian terrorists in the Strip launched a rocket at Israel that fell short of its target and landed inside Gaza, the army said.

On Monday night, another rocket was fired at southern Israel, but it was intercepted by the Iron Dome. Then too, the army retaliated by targeting a Hamas outpost.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Though Hamas is not directly behind the rocket launches, Israel holds the terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip, as ultimately responsible for any attacks that emanate from the coastal enclave.

Last Friday night, a number of rockets were launched at the Israeli town of Sderot. One hit a kindergarten, breaking a window, and another landed in a street, damaging several cars and at least one home. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Earlier on Tuesday, two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group were killed when the motorcycle they were riding on exploded in the northern Gaza Strip. The blast was initially described as an Israeli airstrike — something the IDF rigorously denied — but which the Islamic Jihad later said was an accident.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip.

A Hamas attack tunnel that entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, which was destroyed by the IDF on December 10, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks. On October 30, Israel blew up a tunnel belonging to the Islamic Jihad, killing 14 terrorists in the process, including two of the group’s senior commanders, and two members of Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad retaliated one month later, firing a dozen mortar shells at an Israeli military position northeast of the Strip, causing damage, but no injuries.

The increase in rocket attacks has also been tied to US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that has angered Palestinians.

Hamas called for a new intifada against Israel over Trump’s announcement, and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence in recent days.

US President Donald Trump signing a proclamation that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, December 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but criticized internationally, especially in the Arab world. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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