2 rockets fired from Gaza toward southern Israel; no injuries reported

Alert heard in Nir Yitzhak and Sufa, sending residents rushing to bomb shelters; projectiles fired hours after IDF increases Iron Dome missile defense batteries in south of country

Illustrative: a rocket fired from Gaza over Israel, July 09, 2014. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: a rocket fired from Gaza over Israel, July 09, 2014. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces said Friday evening that two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel. No injuries were reported.

Rocket sirens were initially heard in Nir Yitzhak and Sufa — two communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip — and a rocket fall reported. The sirens sounded at approximately 10:00 p.m., sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Almost two hours later, the IDF said a second rocket was fired from the coastal enclave. The second projectile fell in an open area and did not trigger warning sirens.

Southern Israeli communities are regularly targeted by rockets fired by Gaza terrorist groups. The last major flare-up between Israel and armed Gaza in groups was in May, when hundreds of rockets were fired at towns and cities at the border communities.

An Iron Dome anti-missile battery is seen near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on December 27, 2014. (Flash90)

Earlier on Friday, the IDF deployed further batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system in the south of the country as Hamas threatened to avenge the death of one of its members who was shot dead a day earlier by troops in what the army characterized as “a misunderstanding.”

Some 6,000 Palestinians gathered on the Gaza border for protests Friday afternoon, where some rioters hurled rocks as well as explosive devices at soldiers, Hebrew-language media reported.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said 55 people were injured, 33 of them by live fire, according to Channel 13.

Palestinian demonstrators run away from the fence during protests along the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on July 12, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Meanwhile, an Egyptian delegation entered the enclave on Friday afternoon in a bid to calm tensions.

Mediators from Cairo have long worked to negotiate between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, in a bid to prevent major outbreaks of violence.

On Thursday, in an unusual move, the military acknowledged that Hamas field commander Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28, had been erroneously identified by soldiers as an armed terrorist, but was apparently an operative trying to stop Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.

Hamas field commander Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28, who was killed by IDF gunfire on July 11, 2019. (Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades)

The army’s statement appeared to be an effort to calm tensions with Hamas and prevent another round of violence on the border.

Hamas’s military wing said in a statement that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act.”

Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza. Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.

Thursday’s border incident came amid a relatively calm period along the normally restive frontier, following a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

In recent days, leaders of the terror group have threatened to bring back the high level of violence along the border — riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On Tuesday, Hamas launched a highly unusual training exercise that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report.

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