Three mortar shells fired at southern Israel from Gaza, no injuries
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Three mortar shells fired at southern Israel from Gaza, no injuries

Army says it spotted launches of shells, but that impact sites have yet to be found; only the third launch triggers warning siren

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell during a graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative. Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell during a graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired three mortar shells into southern Israel on Wednesday, but caused no injuries or damage, the army and police said.

The launches took place over a period of four hours. In all three cases the army said it spotted the launches, but that the exact impact sites of the shells had yet to be found.

Warning sirens only wailed during the third launch. It was not immediately clear where the third mortar landed. Police said that the previous two landed in open fields in the Eshkol region.

Warning sirens were not triggered by the first two launches, apparently because the shells were heading toward unpopulated areas.

A police officer inspects a rocket that was fired at the Eshkol region of southern Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip on January 1, 2018. (Israel Police)

This was the fifth projectile from Gaza to hit Israeli territory in under a week. There have also been a number of unsuccessful attempts, in which rockets were launched at Israel but failed to clear the border, landing instead inside Gaza.

On Monday night, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Israel that also hit an open field in the Eshkol region, causing neither injury nor damage.

On Friday, terrorists in Gaza fired three mortar shells at southern Israel, apparently in an attempt to interrupt a ceremony for a fallen IDF soldier whose remains are being held by Hamas in the coastal enclave. Two of the mortars were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the third struck an Israeli community on the border, causing light damage to a building.

On Wednesday, the military completed an investigation of the Friday attack, determining it to have been the work of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

Israelis take cover during a rocket attack siren warning at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israel and Gaza border, Israel, December 29, 2017. Israelis had gathered there to mark the birthday of Oron Shaul, who was killed during the last war in Gaza; Hamas holds his remains. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The recent attacks came two weeks after a period of near-daily attacks earlier in December. The past month has seen the largest incidence of rocket fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist organizations in Gaza.

The army believes that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has been struggling to rein in other terrorist groups in the enclave and prevent them from carrying out attacks on Israeli targets.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot responded to the calls from Israeli politicians and public figures for more aggressive retaliations, dismissing them as “irresponsible.”

Since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, dozens of rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel by Gazan terrorist groups.

On December 19, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman described the recent attacks as the “price” Israel had to pay for Trump’s declaration.

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