Rocket fired at southern Israel from Gaza, striking open field

Rocket fired at southern Israel from Gaza, striking open field

No injuries or damage caused by attack, which comes a day before Qatari envoy is due to bring funds to the Palestinian enclave

Illustrative: The remains of a rocket fired from Gaza that fell near an Israeli community in July 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: The remains of a rocket fired from Gaza that fell near an Israeli community in July 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel Wednesday night, striking an open field, the army said.

No injuries or damage were caused by the attack.

As the projectile was heading toward an unpopulated area, sirens did not sound in the nearby Israeli towns, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Residents of the community of Nahal Oz were notified of the attack through an alert system, a spokesperson for the Sha’ar Hanegev region said.

This was the fifth rocket fired at Israel from the enclave in the past week. One rocket was fired at southern Israel on Friday night, followed by three on Saturday night Saturday. Three of these were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. One rocket struck outside a home in the southern town of Sderot, causing light damage, but no physical injuries.

The Israeli military retaliated to the Friday night attack, bombing two Hamas positions in the coastal enclave. There was no military response to the Saturday night rocket attack.

Wednesday’s rocket fire came a day before Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi was scheduled to visit Gaza to oversee the disbursement of another $25 million in $100 bills to needy families, and to discuss infrastructure projects funded by the Gulf emirate in the Strip.

Palestinians demonstrate near the fence along the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has allowed Qatar to deliver regular infusions of millions of dollars in cash to the Strip to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse and further violence.

Earlier this week, Hamas issued a direct threat to step up the violence along the Gaza-Israel border if Israel hinders the entry of the Qatari cash into the Strip or fails to increase the supply of electricity.

The threat, published in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Tuesday morning, followed outbursts of violence and tension along the border over recent weekends, and repeated warnings by Hamas and other Gazan terror groups that the blockaded Palestinian enclave was on the verge of an “explosion.”

“The factions have given the interlocutors a direct threat [to pass along to Israel]: If the enemy does not implement the understandings, allowing entry of the Qatari funds and increasing the quantity of electricity by this weekend, they will move to escalate on the ground,” an unnamed Hamas source told the newspaper.

Hamas has sought to distance itself from a series of cross-border attacks over the past month, painting the perpetrators as young lone-wolf Palestinian attackers exasperated by the humanitarian situation in the enclave. On Monday, Hamas leaders expressed concerns that popular anger could snowball into another war with Israel.

Gaza has faced severe electricity shortages under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which grew more severe after 2014, when an Egyptian crackdown against Hamas all but sealed the enclave’s border with the Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas’s ultimatum drew accusations from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election challengers that his government had lost its ability to deter the Gazan terror group.

“This is what extortion looks like. To anyone who still doesn’t get it: our deterrence hasn’t eroded, it’s collapsed,” the Blue and White opposition party said in a statement Tuesday. “In a Blue and White cabinet, we will set the agenda for Hamas, and won’t be its supplier of dollars.”

Al-Emadi’s visit, which will last for a number of days, will “follow up on the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee’s work and projects in the Gaza Strip as well as follow up on the payment of Qatari grants to poor families” in the coastal enclave, according to a Monday report from the Gaza-based news site Sawa.

It’s not clear why Hamas is demanding that Israel allow the Qatari funds to enter the Strip, as there are no reports that Israel was planning to prevent the visit.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist terror group Hamas, take part in a march in Gaza City, July 25, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Israel maintains many restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, which its officials argue are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have recently played key roles in brokering informal ceasefires between Israel and Gaza, which have largely entailed Hamas and other terror groups halting violence in the border area in exchange for the Jewish state scaling back some of the restrictions it has imposed on the coastal enclave.

Hamas, however, has frequently accused Israel of dragging its feet in implementing the informal agreements.

Analysts say that Hamas is desperately trying to prevent another round of hostilities with Israel in light of the Qatari money flowing into the Strip along with new reported plans to rebuild Gazan infrastructure.

Recent weeks, however, have also seen several serious infiltration attempts into Israel.

In a span of 10 days, six armed Palestinian terrorists — many of them current and former Hamas members — got through the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip before being killed by Israeli troops. In one case on August 1, the gunman opened fire at IDF soldiers, injuring three of them, before he was shot dead.

Two weeks ago, a group of four heavily armed terrorists, carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rations, attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory before they were spotted and shot dead by troops on the border.

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