Rocket from Gaza hits southern Israel in dead of night

Missile lands in open field in Sha’ar Hanegev; no incoming alert as projectile was headed toward unpopulated area

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Palestinian missiles are fired from Gaza City toward Israel following Israeli airstrikes on July 17, 2014. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
Illustrative: Palestinian missiles are fired from Gaza City toward Israel following Israeli airstrikes on July 17, 2014. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck an open field in southern Israel early Monday morning, causing neither damage nor injury, the army said.

The rocket hit the Sha’ar Hanegev region, northeast of the Gaza Strip, the military said.

It was launched shortly before 4:15 a.m., according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The incoming missile alert siren was not activated as the rocket was not headed toward a populated area.

There were no immediate reports of Israeli retaliation.

In the two and a half years since Israel waged a war against Hamas in 2014, the number of rocket attacks against the Jewish state has dropped to historically low levels, approximately once or twice a month.

The night-time attack was relatively uncommon, as rocket launches more frequently occur during the day, presumably to disrupt the course of Israelis’ lives and to gain media attention.

These have been launched mostly by radical salafist groups, not by Hamas. However, Israel holds Hamas, the Sunni terror group that has ruled the Strip for the past 10 years, as ultimately responsible for any rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Monday morning’s rocket attack also comes two and a half weeks after a number of cross-border exchanges between Israel and terrorist groups inside the Gaza Strip, which raised concerns of potential renewed conflict between the IDF and Hamas.

On February 6, a rocket was launched at Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast, in the Hof Ashkelon region, also striking an open field. Later in the day, an IDF patrol came under gunfire while on duty near the security fence.

The IDF responded to the two attacks with tank shellings and aerial strikes on a Hamas positions throughout the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that Israel would not tolerate a “drizzle” of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip “without a response,” as planes struck targets in the Strip.

“My policy is to respond strongly to any rocket fire,” Netanyahu said at the time. “We are firm in this response.”

In recent months, the IDF — under the direction of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman — has adopted a harsher policy toward sporadic rocket fire.

The hawkish Liberman has promised that Israel will respond aggressively to rocket attacks, in order to force Hamas to rein in the more extreme groups in Gaza. On at least two occasions, the IDF carried out dozens of airstrikes on Hamas positions in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

Last week, the Islamic State in Sinai fired two missiles that struck an open field in Israel’s southern Eshkol region, on the border with Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. And earlier this month, the terrorist group launched four Grad rockets at the southern city of Eilat. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the fourth landed in an open field.

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