A rocket fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip exploded in Israeli territory Thursday night, setting off rocket warning sirens in the western Negev and alarming residents in the final hours of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations.
The military said the rocket landed in an open field. No one was hurt in the attack, and there were no reports of damage. Authorities were searching for the rocket’s impact site.
There were reports in Hebrew media that one or two additional rockets may have been launched and landed inside the Palestinian enclave. Officials did not immediately confirm this.
Military officials said they believed the rocket was not fired by Hamas but by independent operatives. Army sources told Ynet news that they believed the launch to be an isolated incident which would not lead to an escalation.
MK Hayim Yelin (Yesh Atid), former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said: “For most of the residents of the Gaza periphery, who are the periphery of the state of Israel, the 67th Independence Day is still a day without hope. The government of Israel must act forcefully against terror and at the same time to look for a diplomatic horizon which promises peace and security.”
A resident of the western Negev told Ynet, “We heard the siren and ran to the safe room. We closed the door and then heard a big explosion, I know it was definitely a Kassam because I recognize the sound. It was surprising because we are in a quiet period here, we weren’t really prepared.”
Sderot resident Adi Bitan Meiri told Haaretz: “We heard a siren, took the kid and ran to the safe room in the house. Initially we thought it was a false alarm and that the sirens malfunctioned because of the rain, but then we heard a large explosion. The boy was terrified and so were we. We closed the steel (fortified) window which had been open for months.”
A resident of Nir Am, a kibbutz in the western Negev, said that he was coming back from an outing to the center of the country when the siren went off. “We just got out of the car and there was a Color Red siren,” he told the paper. “We ran toward the bus station and heard the explosion. We waited a few seconds and went into the house, I hope we won’t need to sleep in the safe room tonight.”
Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Shuster told Ynet that the rocket “is an unusual occurrence and it is not clear yet what the consequences will be. There is no panic among the residents…this is the reality when you live near an active volcano where no one tries to solve it. It erupts once in a while.”
Since Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire in August 2014 that put a halt to a 50-day war in Gaza, the IDF has reported on numerous instances of weapons tests within the Gaza Strip, some of which triggered false alarms in Israel’s southern communities around the coastal enclave.
There have also been several cases of isolated rocket fire from the strip apparently directed at Israel.
Israel is wary of Gaza terrorist groups rearming after Operation Protective Edge. The IDF says Hamas has been conducting test launches in recent months in order to increase rocket launching capabilities.