Southern residents scramble as Iron Dome activates accidentally

Southern residents scramble as Iron Dome activates accidentally

Army says air defense system triggered due to an ‘incorrect identification,’ setting off sirens; false alarm comes as IDF engages in undisclosed ‘security activities’ in area

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

The Iron Dome air defense system was triggered accidentally on Thursday morning, unnecessarily setting off rocket sirens throughout southern Israel, the army said, stressing that no rockets had been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

“An interceptor missile was fired from the Iron Dome system as a result of an incorrect identification,” the army said. “There were no launches from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory.”

The military did not say what the Iron Dome had incorrectly identified.

The sirens sounded at 10:07 a.m. in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions of southern Israel, northeast of Gaza, sending thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Residents of the town of Netivot, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Gaza, reported hearing an explosion and seeing the types of trails left behind by Iron Dome.

Earlier in the morning, the Israeli military shut down a number of roads adjacent to the Gaza Strip for “security activities,” but it would not elaborate on the nature of its operation.

It was not immediately clear if this was connected to the accidental Iron Dome activation. In some cases, the military has increased the sensitivity of its air defense systems at heightened periods of tension, resulting in false alarms.

In March, the military fired 20 interceptor missiles, worth approximately $1 million in total, after the system misidentified automatic gunfire from the Gaza Strip — part of a training exercise by the Hamas terror group — as a large-scale rocket attack.

Tensions between Israel and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have increased dramatically in recent weeks, as negotiations between the two sides and separate talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have deteriorated.

As the talks have stalled, Hamas has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel to daily events, in an apparent effort to ramp up the pressure on the Israeli government, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence, including during nighttime and early morning hours.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was working to prevent another round of violence in the Gaza Strip, but would not tolerate the situation continuing and was prepared to go to war to stop it.

A Palestinian throws a stone toward Israeli troops during clashes east of Gaza City, along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, on October 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

“We are trying to find a solution that will bring back the calm and security to residents of the Gaza periphery,” he said Tuesday.

“I think [Hamas] understands that another outbreak of violence would exact a very high price from the Palestinian side,” Netanyahu said.

At least 140 Palestinians have been killed during the protests since late March, according to AP figures. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the fatalities were its members.

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