Rockets fired from Gaza land in southern Israel after weeks of relative calm
Six rockets fired; three land in southern Israel and two are intercepted by Iron Dome; none injured and no damage reported; rocket fire follows surprise IDF drill; IDF strikes four targets in response.
One of the rockets landed in Rahat, in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, a second rocket exploded near Be'er Sheva and a third exploded in the Lachish Regional Council. Three more rockets were fired toward the Ashkelon Regional Council, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The rocket fire did not cause injuries nor property damage.
The Israel Defense Forces released a statement at about 5 A.M. Monday stating that it struck four targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket fire. Those targets were listed as two weapons storage facilities in the center of the strip, a launching pit and a terror activity site.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon dictated Monday morning that, in response to the overnight rocket fire, the commercial Kerem Hashalom crossing and pedestrian Erez crossings be closed.
Shortly before midnight on Sunday evening, sirens sounded in the areas of Lehavim and Rahat in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, which adjoins the north of Be'er Sheva, and in the town of Netivot in the northwestern Negev.
Residents in Lehavim and Rahat reported hearing the reverberations of explosions. A short time later, Israel Police reported that a rocket had exploded in an open field in the Rahat area.
Following that, shortly after midnight, sirens sounded in the Ashkelon Regional Council, where the Iron Dome battery there intercepted two rockets.
The rocket fire followed a suprise Israel Defense Forces drill that took place on Sunday.
Sunday night's rocket fire follows weeks of relative calm in Israel's south, despite numerous attempts to fire rockets from the Gaza Strip that prompted air raid warnings in communities in the areas adjoining the strip. During May's Shavuot holiday, a rocket was fired at an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, south of the strip, causing no injuries or damage. That incident came two weeks after rocket fire in the region that also caused no damage or injuries.
Sunday's rockets fell at a farther range from Gaza than the earlier incidents, which had been directed at communities near the Gaza border. The earlier incidents included rockets fired on March 21 during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel as well as another incident directed at Kibbutz Nahal Oz on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. In February, a rocket was fired toward the Ashkelon Regional Council from 43 kilometers away in the Gaza Strip.
Nonetheless, in May, security officials were encouraged by the relative calm along the border with the Gaza Strip, and the assessment in the area was that quiet could prevail for an extended period in light of the restraining influence of Hamas, which has overall control of the strip. Israel Defense Forces staff still believe that Hamas has not changed its approach and that the Islamic group is interested in having relative calm prevail in the area.
Hamas has dispatched personnel to disperse demonstrations near the border fence with Israel and has also acted on the ground to head off rocket fire. At the same time, Israeli defense officials have said they would not accept the prospect that rocket fire would become routine and residents near the Gaza border would live with daily rocket alerts.