At least one rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel on Tuesday evening the army confirmed after sirens went off and residents reported hearing loud explosions.
- Egypt reopens Rafah crossing with Gaza, after more than 2 months of closure
- Israel Navy fire wounds Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast
Sirens were sounded at around 9 P.M. in the Lachish Regional Council, not far from Gaza. The army said that at least one projectile was fired from Gaza and exploded in an open area near Gan Yavne. This is located near the port city of Ashdod some 20 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip. The army added that it idenifitied a shooting position.
No damage was reported, but medical services said a 15-year-old girl from Ashdod arrived at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon suffering from shock.
Israeli security officials said they believe that the rocket fire was carried out by the military wing of Islamic Jihad, apparently following an internal dispute within its ranks over the appointment of a new military wing commander in north Gaza. One of the camps decided to fire the rocket to escalate the internal conflict, according to Israel's security establishment. With this in mind, Israel's response is likely to be limited. Israel will likely blame Hamas for the fire, but probably doesn't intend to escalate the situation.
No group in Gaza has claimed responsibility for the rocket fire so far, however. Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that Hamas, anticipating an Israeli response, was evacuating military posts.
On Tuesday evening, residents of the Lachish region reported hearing explosions seconds after hearing the sirens. Reuven, a resident of Gan Yavne said: “The family was sitting at home and we were watching the news, suddenly the siren started and we didn’t understand where it was coming from while we were running to the protected room we heard a really strong explosion.”
The Home Front Command reissued instructions to the public following the rocket fire, highlighting the importance of finding a protected area and remaining there for ten minutes after the alarm sounds.
In Ashdod, schools were set to operate as normal on Wednesday, aside from institutions that don't have safe rooms.
One month ago, on Israel's Independence Day, a rocket exploded in an open field near the Gaza Strip, following four months of quiet. The Israel Defense Forces responded with tank fire. No damage or injury was reported on both sides.
At the time, Hamas officials refused to confirm a rocket was fired at Israel, referring to it in reports as an Israeli claim. Estimates were that the rocket fire reflected a power struggle between Hamas and other factions in Gaza.
Egyptian authorities on Tuesday opened the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, for the first time in nearly 80 days, to allow stranded Palestinians to return to the Strip. However, it did not allow traffic the other way.
Israel and Palestinian militant groups fought a 50-day war in July and August, the longest round of violence between the sides to date. Thousands of rockets were launched at Israel during the conflict, with only few attacks occurring after since the ceasefire an open-ended ceasefire took hold.