Rocket fired from Gaza at southern Israel, intercepted by Iron Dome

Medics say 50-year-old woman lightly hurt after falling while running for bomb shelter; police minister ties attack to move to close bakeries in prisons holding terror inmates

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

An Iron Dome interceptor missile is seen intercepting a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip over the southern city of Sderot, February 1, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An Iron Dome interceptor missile is seen intercepting a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip over the southern city of Sderot, February 1, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel on Wednesday evening was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the military said.

Incoming rocket sirens sounded in the southern city of Sderot and the nearby towns of Ibim and Nir Am.

Footage showed Iron Dome interceptor missiles exploding in the air.

The Israel Defense Forces said the rocket was downed by the air defense system.

Medics said a woman in her 50s was lightly hurt after slipping while running to a bomb shelter in Sderot. She was taken by the Magen David Adom ambulance service to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

A large piece of shrapnel landed in the southern city, causing minor damage to a road, the Sderot municipality said.

Rocket shrapnel found in the city of Sderot following an attack from the Gaza Strip, Febuary 1, 2023. (Sderot Municipality)

The rocket fire came amid heightened tensions in the region.

Images and a video circulating on social media shortly after the rocket attack showed three Iranian-made 107mm Fadjr-1 projectiles, similar to the shrapnel found in Sderot, with text on them reading: “The female prisoners are a red line.”

It was unclear which armed group had issued the footage, and there was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for the rocket fire Wednesday.

The text was apparently referring to reports of a crackdown by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) against Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails, especially female prisoners.

The IPS had been taking disciplinary actions against so-called security prisoners — Palestinians held on terror charges — who had been allegedly celebrating recent terror attacks in Israel. The Kan public broadcaster said the moves were also being taken against female Palestinian prisoners, some of who have been transferred to solitary confinement and have had their rooms searched.

The network said Islamic Jihad had threatened a response over the IPS actions.

Earlier Wednesday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir ordered the IPS to shutter two bakeries inside prisons that were supplying security inmates with fresh bread in the mornings.

Ben Gvir appeared to tie the rocket attack to his move earlier in the day.

“The [rocket] fire from Gaza will not stop me from continuing to work to abolish the summer camp conditions of murderous terrorists. I give my full support to the IPS to go into the [prison] wings and restore order. I asked for an urgent cabinet meeting this evening to examine ways of responding to the launch of the rockets from Gaza,” the far-right minister said in a statement following the rocket fire.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the press at Jerusalem’s Shaare Tzedek hospital on January 28, 2023 (Courtesy Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Wednesday’s rocket also came as the family of 17-year-old Ella Abukasis held a memorial marking 18 years since she was killed in a rocket attack in Sderot. Ella was walking home with her younger brother when the sirens sounded. She jumped on top of her brother to shield him from the incoming rocket, which ultimately killed her.

The last time a rocket was fired from the coastal enclave toward Israel was last Thursday night, after terror groups threatened to respond to a deadly raid in the West Bank earlier that day. Gazans then fired several more rockets toward southern Israel as Israeli Air Force warplanes carried out sorties in the Gaza Strip in response the next morning.

Before that, a rocket was fired on January 3, following Hamas threats to retaliate against Ben Gvir paying a visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The rocket failed to cross the border.

Tensions have been high as the IDF has pressed on with an anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that have left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and seven more in an attack on Friday.

The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 35 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, early February 1, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Tensions increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an IDF raid in the West Bank against a terrorist cell left 10 Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed.

On Friday night, a Palestinian gunman from East Jerusalem killed seven people and injured three more in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood, and the next morning, a 13-year-old Palestinian shot and wounded two Israeli men near the Old City.

There has also been a rise in revenge attacks by Israelis against Palestinians following the two terror attacks.

The IDF bolstered forces in the West Bank following the recent incidents.

The military was expected to respond to the rocket attack on Wednesday.

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