False missile alarm sounds in south amid skyrocketing Gaza tensions

IDF does not say what triggered alarm sending southern residents rushing for bomb shelters, as army braces for possible uptick in violence over the weekend

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)

A falsely triggered rocket alarm sent Israelis on the border region scrambling for bomb shelters early Friday morning, amid sky-high tensions along the frontier ahead of possible weekend violence.

The Israel Defense Forces said the rocket siren which sounded in the Eshkol region just before 1 a.m. was a false alarm.

It did not say what triggered the siren, which went off following a day that saw low-level violence along the border persist following a flare-up of cross-border fire earlier in the week.

The siren came as Gazans were reportedly holding low-scale nighttime riots along the border, which often include the throwing of improvised explosives at the border fence and at Israeli troops across the volatile border. In the past, the explosives have managed to set off rocket alarms.

Palestinian protesters take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 19, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

An Egyptian military intelligence delegation has been working to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group ahead of a mass protest planned for Saturday, amid fears that clashes along the border could snowball into a larger conflagration.

On Thursday, an Israeli drone fired at a group of Palestinians launching balloon-borne incendiary devices into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, lightly injuring three of them, according to local media reports.

Throughout the day, several incendiary devices attached to balloons landed in the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev regions of southern Israel.

Israel has sent extra troops to the border region as the army braces for potential large-scale clashes along the Gaza border over the weekend, planned to mark a year since the start of the so-called March of Return protests, which began March 30, 2018.

A number of residents of Israeli communities along the Gaza border have reportedly chosen to leave the area for the weekend ahead of the planned demonstrations.

Israeli soldiers sit on top of mobile artillery near the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Violence this week started after a rocket fired from Gaza struck a farming community in central Israel early Monday, leveling a home and injuring seven people, including two small children.

A picture taken on March 26, 2019, shows a Hamas policeman standing guard next to the rubble of a building in Gaza City that was targeted the night before by an Israeli air raid. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israeli warplanes subsequently carried out dozens of bombing runs and Gazans fired some 60 projectiles at southern Israel, with the violence only waning before dawn Wednesday.

A senior member of Hamas’s military wing said Thursday that the rockets recently fired from the Gaza Strip toward central Israel launched on their own due to the terror group’s heightened war footing.

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