Rocket launched at Israel from Gaza, triggering air defenses, IDF says

Army says one set of sirens set off by explosive lobbed at the security fence amid uptick in border violence

Illustrative: The IDF launches a missile from the Iron Dome air defense system to intercept an incoming rocket from Gaza from a position in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on May 29, 2018. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
Illustrative: The IDF launches a missile from the Iron Dome air defense system to intercept an incoming rocket from Gaza from a position in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on May 29, 2018. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired at least one mortar shell at southern Israel on Wednesday, triggering Israeli air defenses, the military said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages caused by the projectile.

The attack set off sirens in the Eshkol region, sending residents scrambling to bomb shelters.

“As of now, there are no known impact sites,” an Eshkol spokesperson said.

It was not immediately clear if the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted the incoming projectile.

In some cases, the air defense system can be triggered by the launch of a rocket or mortar shell, but if Iron Dome operators calculate that the projectile is heading for an open field and not a populated area, they can cause the interceptor missile to safely self-destruct.

There was no immediate retaliation by the Israeli military to the rocket attack, but a response, likely in the form of strikes on Hamas positions in the Strip, was expected.

Earlier, a round of sirens was triggered in the nearby Sha’ar Hanegev region, which also abuts the Gaza Strip.

According to the military, those sirens were a false alarm, triggered by an explosive device that was thrown at the security fence during a riot in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said the explosive device detonated inside the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that one Palestinian man was seriously injured by Israeli gunfire during the riot.

The sirens came amid an uptick in violence in and around the Gaza Strip in recent days, with nightly riots and daily attacks by Palestinians launching balloon-borne explosive devices into southern Israel. The military has typically responded with tank and airstrikes on Hamas positions in the Strip, mostly on the border but in some cases deeper inside the coastal enclave.

Earlier Wednesday, three explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip and detonated above communities in the Eshkol region.

The blasts caused neither injury nor damage, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

Those attacks came after the Israel Air Force carried out airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night, in response to balloons with explosives flown into Israel earlier that day. One of the bombs went off between two buildings in a Gaza border community, without causing injury or damage.

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near-nightly riots and a return of airborne bomb and arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas at the end of last year.

In the nightly demonstrations, led by so-called “confusion units,” participants generally set off loud explosives, burn tires and throw rocks at Israeli troops on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli soldiers typically respond with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire.

An Egyptian delegation traveled to Gaza this week in a bid to convince Hamas leaders to tamp down the violence. They warned that “creating tensions on the border by launching incendiary balloons will bring the IDF to launch a broad military confrontation in the Strip,” according to a report from the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, which cited a senior Hamas source.

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