At least two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel on Tuesday night, one of which struck the city of Ashdod, injuring two people, the military said.
The rockets triggered sirens in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, potentially sending hundreds of thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters just as the country’s leader was signing historic accords with two Gulf states, vociferously opposed by the Palestinians.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one of the incoming projectiles.
The second rocket struck a street in Ashdod, lightly damaging it and nearby storefronts and knocking down a tree.
Later on Tuesday night, IDF troops caught two Palestinian men who entered Israel from the southern Gaza Strip. It was not immediately clear if they were armed. “The suspects are being interrogated at the scene,” the military said.
Security camera footage from the scene showed the moment of impact in Ashdod, as the rocket exploded as it slammed into the street.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said one man, 62, was moderately injured, sustaining shrapnel wounds to his upper body from the rocket. The second man, 28, suffered light injuries to his extremities from broken glass. Four other people suffered anxiety attacks as a result of the apparent rocket fire, medics said.
The 62-year-old man was reportedly delivering food to needy families when he was hit by the shrapnel.
The two men were taken to Ashdod’s Assuta Medical Center for treatment, MDA said.
Police sappers were called to the rocket impact site in Ashdod. “Police forces have closed off the area and at this stage are carrying out their mission to remove the risk from the area. Police sappers are dealing with the rocket and its parts professionally in order to prevent injury and to allow normal life to return,” police said.
The rocket attacks on Ashkelon and Ashdod came as a signing ceremony was taking place in Washington to mark the establishment of formal ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain.
“On this historic night of peace, we received a reminder from our enemies that we must always be strong and prepared to defend Israeli citizens on all fronts and at all times — and this we will do,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in response to the attack.
Terror groups in the Strip have in the past attempted to interrupt major Israeli festivities with attacks. Indeed, television footage of the signing ceremony on Tuesday night was accompanied by information from the IDF Home Front Command about the areas where rocket sirens were triggered.
The TV screens in #Israel this evening – one side is the ceremony of signing of the normalization accords between the UAE,Bahrain and #Israel , and the other side is the Homefront Command alert system warning of rocket fire towards all districts of Ashdod and Asheklon from #Gaza pic.twitter.com/DbcvnqOaq9
— parallel_universe #keepthemaskon (@ignis_fatum) September 15, 2020
Hamas appeared to claim responsibility for the rocket fire, indicating that it was in response to the normalization agreements with Abu Dhabi and Manama.
“The normalization agreements between Bahrain, the UAE, and the Zionist entity are not worth the paper they were written on,” Hamas said in a statement. “Our people insists on continuing its struggle until it secures the return of all [of] its rights.”
Gaza Palestinians rallied against the deal earlier in the day, burning pictures of the leaders of all four countries and their flags.
Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations brokered an unofficial ceasefire agreement between Israel and terror groups in the Strip last month, following weeks of heightened tensions between the two sides.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.