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Rocket fired at Beersheba on election day, shortly after PM makes campaign stop

Projectile from Gaza lands in open area, causing no damage or injury; during 2019 campaign PM was twice whisked off stage mid-speech due to rocket fire

Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he votes at a polling station in Jerusalem on March 23, 2021, in the fourth national election in two years. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he votes at a polling station in Jerusalem on March 23, 2021, in the fourth national election in two years. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in a field near Beersheba on Tuesday night, shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an election day visit to the southern city.

The military said a rocket alert siren only sounded in open areas, rather than the city. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Early Wednesday, Israeli warplanes and helicopters attacked a Hamas rocket factory and military outpost in Gaza in response to the rocket fire, the army said.

As Israelis voted in the country’s fourth election in two years, Netanyahu on Tuesday afternoon headed to the south, usually a Likud stronghold, where he claimed turnout was worryingly low. His Likud party indicated the prime minister had been driving out of Beersheba at the time of the rocket attack.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who heads the centrist Blue and White party, paused his campaigning to hold security consultations following the rocket fire, his party said.

The rocket fire, some three hours before polls close, came days after the prime minister canceled a scheduled campaign appearance at an event in southern Israel, after a Gaza terrorist group released a threatening video aimed at him.

The Gaza-based terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad publicized a video showing its members preparing to fire rockets at Israel.

Twice in 2019, Netanyahu was forced to take shelter during campaign events in the south due to rocket fire, generating humiliating images for the prime minister and ammunition for his political opponents.

In September 2019, shortly before the national election, terrorists in Gaza fired rockets near a Netanyahu campaign event in Ashdod, forcing the premier to briefly leave the stage and take cover.

Both right-wing and left-wing political party leaders including Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman slammed Netanyahu over the episode.

Months later, in December 2019, Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket toward Ashkelon as Netanyahu was campaigning in the city, prompting him to be rushed off stage to seek shelter.

The Israel-Gaza border has been relatively quiet in the past year as both Israel and Hamas contend with COVID-19.

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