Rocket fired from Gaza hits southern Israel; IDF strikes Hamas post

No injuries or damage reported as projectile lands in open field; army says observation post bombed in response to rocket and balloon-borne attacks throughout day

Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, on November 13, 2019. (Anas Baba/AFP)
Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, on November 13, 2019. (Anas Baba/AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel on Sunday night, striking an open field, Israeli officials said.

No injuries or damage were reported as the projectile hit an unpopulated area.

Following the rocket attack, the Israel Defense Forces carried out an airstrike on a Hamas observation post in southern Gaza, the army said.

“IDF aircraft struck a military post controlled by the Hamas terror group in the Southern Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire and the launching of balloon-borne explosive devices from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory earlier today,” the military said in a statement.

No Palestinian injuries were immediately reported.

Video footage from near the border showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft fire coming from the Gaza Strip that was apparently aimed at the Israeli aircraft.

Throughout the day, several clusters of balloons carrying suspected explosive devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel. Police sappers were called to the scenes to remove the devices.

The rocket fired from Gaza on Sunday night landed near the border, according to the Eshkol Regional Council.

Because the rocket was heading toward an unpopulated area, no alarms were triggered in Israeli communities, but notifications were sent to smartphones in the affected area and nearby alert systems, the military said.

“There are no special instructions at this time,” the council said in a statement.

A wheat field in the Eshkol region of southern Israel that was scorched by a fire caused by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip on March 28, 2019. (Eshkol Regional Council)

Recent days have seen a spate of incidents along the Gaza border, including multiple launches of balloon bunches carrying incendiary devices and explosive packages into Israeli territory.

On Saturday morning, a bunch of balloons tied to a suspected bomb was found near Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Strip.

A second batch of balloons connected to an incendiary device was later discovered in the Ramat Negev Regional Council. It was neutralized by sappers as well.

In response, Israeli Air Force jets struck a number of targets in the southern Gaza Strip late Saturday night. The targets included a weapon-manufacturing depot and a military post operated by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza.

There were no reports of injuries from the airstrikes.

The IDF said it would “continue to act as needed against attempts to harm its citizens. The Hamas terror group is responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip and will bear the consequences for terror attacks against Israeli citizens.”

On Thursday evening, a rocket warning siren sounded in a community near the Gaza border. The army said it was triggered by an unexplained explosion inside Gaza, and not a rocket launch.

Palestinians prepare incendiary balloons near the city of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, June 25, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

The siren raised tensions in the south amid threats from Gaza’s Hamas rulers to escalate violence in order to pressure Israel during informal truce talks now underway via Egyptian mediation.

Israeli television last week reported that “intense efforts” were underway, led by Egypt, to get Hamas to end the arson balloon attacks on Israel amid fears of a return to violence.

There was no official confirmation of the report from Egypt or Hamas.

A senior Hamas official said Tuesday that the recent spate of balloons was a signal to Israel to accelerate unofficial “understandings” meant to ease the blockade on the territory ruled by the terror group.

Speaking to journalists, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said the balloons had been launched by disgruntled individuals, not Hamas. But he said his group was “satisfied” with the launches and is ready to send more “if the occupation doesn’t pick up the message.”

The UN’s Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, called the renewed Palestinian attacks “concerning and regrettable” in a briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday. “These actions are a risk to the civilian population,” he said.

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