Rocket sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and the nearby community of Kibbutz Zikim, north of the Gaza Strip, on Thursday night in what the military said was a false alarm. The incident came amid heightened concerns of attack after terror groups in the enclave threatened revenge over the mysterious deaths of three Palestinian fishermen earlier this week.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, a detection system falsely indicated that rockets had been fired toward Ashkelon and Zikim, causing the sirens and prompting air defense troops to launch two Iron Dome interceptor missiles.
Once it was determined that there were no rockets to shoot down, operators on the ground caused the missiles to explode in mid-air in accordance with military protocol, the IDF said.
Residents of the area reported hearing blasts around the time of the sirens, apparently caused by the interceptor missiles self-destructing.
The incident came hours after the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups blamed Israel for the deaths of three fishermen from the al-Lahham family on Sunday, in an explosion on their boat off the Gaza coast, and vowed to exact revenge.
The terror groups claimed the blast was caused by an explosives-laden Israeli drone that had crashed in the sea last month, got caught in the fishermen’s net and later detonated. The groups also denied initial reports that the three fishermen were killed by a Hamas rocket that was fired out to sea.
The IDF did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Hamas’s claims that it was responsible for the explosion, though after the incident took place it denied involvement, saying there had been “no Israeli fire” toward Gaza and that it was “an internal Gaza incident.”
According to the Hamas Interior Ministry, the drone alleged to have exploded on Sunday had been there since February 22, during a clash between a Hamas naval unit and the Israeli military.