Three rockets shot from Gaza at southern Israel; no injuries
Missiles strike Sdot Negev region; attack comes several days after Grad shot at Gan Yavneh
Three rockets were shot at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip Wednesday night, police said, sending residents hurrying to bomb shelters for the second time in a little over a week.
The Israel Defense Forces said two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave and sirens were heard in Netivot and Ashkelon. Police later said three projectiles struck Israel.
The rockets landed in open areas in the Sdot Negev region bordering the northern Gaza Strip, according to media reports.
There were no injuries reported, the army said.
Alarms sounded just before 11 p.m. in the Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon regions bordering the northern Gaza Strip, as well as the towns of Netivot and Ashkelon.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket fire, but Hamas was reportedly evacuating its command centers in anticipation of an Israeli retaliation.
Residents of the Gaza Strip reported low-flying Israeli Air Force planes over the Palestinian territory shortly after the rocket attacks.
A Hamas source told Israel Radio that the rockets may have been fired by a cell of Salafist extremists allied with the Islamic State in retaliation for one of its members being killed by Hamas on Tuesday. The source said that Hamas was deploying its troops across the Gaza Strip to keep the peace.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for any rocket fire, though the sporadic attacks since an August ceasefire have been attributed to smaller groups which oppose Hamas rule.
On May 26, Palestinians shot a Grad rocket into Israel, striking an area outside the town of Gan Yavneh, in an attack that broke several weeks of calm.
Palestinian and Israeli officials said the rocket attack, which caused no injuries or damage, was the result of internal fighting within the Islamic Jihad terror group.
Israeli planes struck Gaza soon after and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Hamas to rein in any attempts by Gaza terror groups to attack Israel, or “pay a heavy price.”
The attack comes a day after rocket sirens sounded across the rest of the country as part of a major civil defense drill. Areas near Gaza, which absorbed thousands of rockets during last summer’s conflict with the Strip, were excluded from the drill.
Escalating rocket fire from Gaza at Israel’s southern communities in 2014 was among the triggers of a bloody, two-month war between Israel and the armed factions in the Strip. During the conflict, Palestinians fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, some of which reached Tel Aviv and as far north as Haifa’s suburbs.
Last week’s attack marked the first time a Grad rocket, which can go farther than the smaller Kassams more commonly shot out of Gaza, had been fired at Israel since the summer war.
Israel is wary of Gaza terrorist groups rearming after war. The IDF says Hamas has been conducting test launches in recent months in order to increase its rocket-launching capabilities.