Two rockets fired into Israel from Gaza after IAF strikes Hamas targets
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Two rockets fired into Israel from Gaza after IAF strikes Hamas targets

No injuries in attack; IDF raids came in response to wave of arson balloons that sparked brushfires in Eshkol region

Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched at least two rockets into southern Israel early Thursday, the military said. The projectiles fell in an open area, and no injuries were reported.

The rocket fire came after Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas base in the northern Gaza Strip around 3:30 a.m. Thursday in retaliation for a wave of balloon-borne incendiary devices that were launched into Israel from the Strip the day before, which sparked at least two fires.

“Earlier today, explosive and arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip,” the army said. “In response, overnight, an IDF fighter jet and an IDF aircraft struck a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip.”

The Israel Defense Forces said it held Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza, responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

Illustrative: An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen over Gaza City, early Friday, Friday, March 15, 2019. Israeli warplanes attacked terrorist targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Friday in response to a rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

At 5:37 a.m., warning sirens sounded in the communities of Alumim and Nahal Oz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. The IDF said it had detected at least two launches into Israel. A spokesperson for the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council said the rockets apparently landed in open fields and caused no injuries.

One impact site was later located in an agricultural field in the nearby Sdot Negev region, according to officials there.

The impact site of a projectile fired from the Gaza Strip is found in the Sdot Negev region of southern Israel on May 2, 2019. (Screen capture: Sdot Negev Regional Council)

The projectile “didn’t even cause light damage” to the nearby irrigation pipes, a Sdot Negev official said.

The Israeli Air Force strikes came after two brushfires broke out in the southern Eshkol region on Wednesday night, caused by an incendiary device from the Gaza Strip, the fire department said.

The larger of the two blazes began in a field between the Eshkol National Park and Kibbutz Urim, spreading throughout the grasslands and into a wooded area, according to Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Eli Cohen.

The fires were extinguished by teams from the Fire and Rescue Services, the Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund. Once they were put out, investigators determined that they were caused by balloons carrying incendiary devices that had been launched from Gaza.

“The IDF takes seriously all attempts to harm Israeli citizens and will continue to take action against these terrorist acts,” the army said.

The arson attacks came amid heightened tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, after a rocket was launched from the coastal enclave, landing several kilometers off shore on Monday night.

A fire rages in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on May 1, 2019. (Tzvika Korbeshi/Eshkol Regional Council)

Throughout the day, Palestinians launched dozens of incendiary devices, carried by balloons, into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, a fire broke out near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. That blaze was caused by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched into Israel from Gaza.

Also Tuesday, the Israeli military deployed Iron Dome missile defense batteries throughout the country, following a rocket attack from Gaza the previous night and ahead of what is expected to be a sensitive next few weeks.

The military expects the coming days to be particularly tense, as they will see the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the international Eurovision song competition in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Memorial and Independence days, and the first anniversary of the opening of the contentious US embassy in Jerusalem.

An Iron Dome Missile Battery near Tel Aviv on July 15, 2018 (Ben Dori/Flash90)

Following Monday’s rocket launch, Israel scaled back the permitted Gaza fishing zone from 15 nautical miles to six until further notice. The fishing zone had previously been extended to 15 miles — a level that the coastal enclave has not seen in over a decade — as one of the first concessions by Jerusalem under an unofficial ceasefire agreement with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday morning, the IDF said Islamic Jihad intentionally fired the rocket from the northern Gaza Strip toward coastal Israel the day before in an effort to derail ongoing efforts to maintain the ceasefire.

While there has not been a complete cessation of violence along the Gaza border since the ceasefire went into effect last month, the situation there was relatively calm until this week’s flareup.

Terror groups in the Strip have threatened to bring back regular border riots if Israel does not abide by its side of the deal.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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