Israel to place Iron Dome battery in Beersheba area after Gaza rocket fire
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Israel to place Iron Dome battery in Beersheba area after Gaza rocket fire

Deputy defense minister says air defense system could be deployed to southern city as soon as Wednesday evening

An Iron Dome anti-missile battery is seen near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on December 27, 2014. (Flash90)
An Iron Dome anti-missile battery is seen near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on December 27, 2014. (Flash90)

The Iron Dome anti-rocket system will soon be deployed to the Beersheba area, Israel’s deputy defense minister said Wednesday, after Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched a rocket that hit a home inside the city, causing damage but no injuries, and fired another that landed in the sea off central Israel.

“An Iron Dome battery will be set up in the Beersheba area in the coming days, perhaps even tonight,” Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan said in the Knesset.

Ben Dahan was responding to a question about the IDF Home Front Command’s preparedness for war in the south.

The announcement came as a tentative calm in the south appeared to take hold by Wednesday afternoon, after the Israel Defense Forces said it bombed at least 20 targets in Gaza in response to the rocket attack.

The Israel Defense Forces does not usually comment on the deployment of Iron Dome batteries.

The placement of the anti-rocket system near the city might signal Israel expects hostilities with Gaza to continue.

The statement appeared to confirm that there was no battery near Beersheba at the time of the Wednesday rocket attack.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan speaks during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on January 19, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The statement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top defense officials at the military’s Gaza Division headquarters for a security assessment following the flareup, warning that Israel would “act forcefully” in response to violence from the Palestinian enclave.

The security consultations included Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman and other top officials, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Egypt and the UN have reportedly scrambled to try to negotiate a calm between the sides since the rocket attack on Beersheba, which came days after Israeli leaders had already threatened a wider offensive over near-daily border riots and launches of incendiary balloons and kites.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, a mid-range rocket from the Gaza Strip bearing a heavy 20 kilogram (44 pound) warhead struck a house in the southern city of Beersheba, causing significant damage to the structure.

The residents were spared injury as they had rushed into their bomb shelter after the incoming rocket siren sounded in the city.

An Israeli sapper checks a house in the southern city of Beersheba after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on October 17, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In response, the Israel Defense Forces carried out strikes on some 20 targets in the Strip connected to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group and other organizations in the coastal enclave.

Hamas and the second largest terror group in the Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, officially denied carrying out the rocket attack, saying it was “irresponsible” and undermined an Egyptian-led negotiation effort.

It was only the second rocket fired at Beersheba since the 2014 Gaza war. The previous rocket, which struck a field north of Beersheba on August 9, came as Palestinians fired dozens of projectiles at Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

Rocket attacks on Beersheba — home to more than 200,000 people — are rare and considered a major escalation.

A second rocket fired from Gaza Wednesday morning crashed into the sea off the coast of greater Tel Aviv area, known in Israel as Gush Dan. The military would only confirm that it struck “off the coast of a large city.”

There was no word if an Iron Dome was or would be deployed in the Tel Aviv region.

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on October 17, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war, with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

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