Rocket siren tripped by unexplained Gaza explosion, IDF says

Rocket siren tripped by unexplained Gaza explosion, IDF says

Thursday alert came as military braced for Palestinian terror groups’ attempts to disrupt World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem

An Iron Dome battery in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on November 13, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Iron Dome battery in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on November 13, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

There was no immediate word on what caused the explosion in the northern part of Gaza, near the area of the border closest to the city of Sderot.

Israel’s missile defense system around Gaza tracks explosions believed to be caused by rocket launches.

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.

Terror groups in the Strip have also continued to launch incendiary devices attached to balloons into Israel in recent days, undeterred by Israel’s threats to respond forcefully to Palestinian attempts to disrupt a major event in Jerusalem, the World Holocaust Forum, attended by many world leaders.

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

A number of suspicious balloons apparently launched from the Gaza Strip were found Thursday in southern Israel.

Police said that four balloons, three in Kiryat Gat and one in a community in the Shafir Regional Council, had suspicious objects attached to them. Sappers were dispatched to deal with them.

“In one case the object exploded, with no injuries in the incident,” police said.

Hours earlier, a spokesperson for the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council said a suspicious bunch of balloons was found there. “Military forces immediately came to the scene and handled the situation successfully,” the spokesperson said.

The balloon launches came a day after Israeli television reported that Egypt is involved in “intense efforts” to get Hamas to end a recent uptick in arson balloon attacks on Israel from Gaza amid fears of a return to violence.

An Israeli soldier battles a fire started by an incendiary device launched from Gaza Strip in southern Israel on June 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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

There were at least two attacks by balloon-borne incendiary devices on Wednesday.

Officials have been on alert for attempts by Hamas to disrupt the Holocaust gathering in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday — either by increasing balloon attacks at Israeli communities or by allowing other terror groups to fire rockets into Israel, a report on the Kan public broadcaster said.

Tensions were also high after the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday killed three armed Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel from Gaza and attacked soldiers who intercepted them at the border.

Kan said Wednesday that the IDF feared Hamas would try to avenge the three by disrupting the conference, and bolstered the deployment of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries.

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

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 balloon launches “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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