Iron Dome intercepts 3 incoming projectiles as IDF strikes Gaza
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Iron Dome intercepts 3 incoming projectiles as IDF strikes Gaza

Sirens blare in southern Israel throughout night, sending thousands of Israelis to bomb shelters; one rocket said to land in open area

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

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israeli forces in response to a rocket attack earlier in the evening on June 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/Mahmud Hams)
An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israeli forces in response to a rocket attack earlier in the evening on June 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/Mahmud Hams)

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted three projectiles fired at southern Israel by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, with another apparently landing in Israeli territory, in four separate attacks in the predawn hours of Sunday, the army said.

Thousands of Israelis were sent rushing to bomb shelters throughout the night as sirens were repeatedly triggered to warn them of incoming fire.

The renewed fire came as Israeli fighter jets bombed a number of terrorist positions in the coastal enclave in response to an earlier rocket attack on southern Israel on Saturday.

In the staggered attacks overnight Saturday-Sunday, the first projectile was launched shortly after 12:30 a.m., setting off sirens in the southern town of Sderot and surrounding Sha’ar Hanegev region.

The second projectile was fired at Israel less than an hour later, triggering alarms in the Eshkol region, the army said.

At 2:45 a.m., sirens again sounded in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions in southern Israel as another projectile targeted southern Israel.

All three were shot down by the Iron Dome, the army said. It was not immediately clear if the projectiles were rockets or mortar shells.

At 3:20 a.m., sirens again went off in the Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions, with the army confirming another “launch from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory,” and identifying the projectile as a rocket.

According to the Walla website, it exploded in an open area in the Gaza periphery.

Earlier on Saturday night, the army’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired at southern Israel by a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, the military said. A second rocket was also launched around the same time, but appeared to fall on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The renewed rocket fire followed significant clashes on the Gaza border on Friday and a massive flare-up last week, in which Palestinian terrorist groups launched over 100 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel and the military responded by striking over 65 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad sites in the Strip.

In response to the rocket attack on Saturday evening, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of strikes on targets throughout the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF, using fighter jets, attacked 10 terror targets in three compounds belonging to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. Among the targets that were attacked were two sites used to manufacture and store weapons and a military compound,” the army said.

According to the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency, the planes struck sites in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, in the Nuseirat refugee camp and outside the city of Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Quds news site also reported Israeli strikes outside the city of Rafah.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

A video, posted on social media, reportedly showed the bombing of the targets in Shejaiya, which sent a large fireball into the sky.

The rocket launches appeared to be the first violation of a fragile ceasefire in effect since Wednesday morning, but came after a weekend of intense violence along the Gaza border.

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Israeli Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed along the border with the Gaza strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The two rocket launches triggered sirens in Israel’s Eshkol region, near the south of the Strip, shortly before the end of Shabbat. The sirens came as Israeli firefighters were battling huge fires in along the border caused by Palestinian fire kites.

A spokesperson for the Eshkol region said it appeared that no injuries or damage were caused by the debris from the interception of the rocket, but authorities were still searching the area.

The Eshkol spokesperson said no special instructions were given to residents of the area in light of the rocket launches.

On the Palestinian side of the border, thousands attended a funeral for a young female volunteer medic, who Palestinians say was shot and killed by the IDF while tending the injured during violent protests on the Gaza border.

The border tensions comes following a week that saw the worst escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war in Gaza. Earlier this week, Palestinian terror groups fired over 100 rockets and mortars at towns and cities in southern Israel. The Israel Defense Forces responded with dozens of airstrikes on Hamas military targets. After almost 24 hours of fire, a tacit understanding and unofficial ceasefire began, though both sides have described it as fragile.

Also Saturday night, firefighters were working to put out three large fires in Israel along the Gaza Strip border, believed to have been started by incendiary kites flown from the coastal enclave on Saturday.

The largest fire was near Kibbutz Carmia, adjacent to the northern Gaza Strip. Preliminary estimates suggested that between 2,000 to 3,000 dunams (500 to 740 acres) of fields and parts of a nature reserve adjacent to the kibbutz were destroyed.

TOI staff contributed to this report.

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