Israeli Army Strikes Targets in Gaza After Rocket Fired Toward Israel

Rocket was first to be fired toward Israel for past four months.

An Aug. 21, 2014 file photo of a light trail made by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
AFP

IDF tanks struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip just before midnight on Thursday, after a rocket was fired from the Strip into the area of the Shaar Hanegev regional council late on Thursday night.

The rocket did not cause injuries or damage, and is thought to have landed in an open area.

The Israel Defense Forces issued a short statement confirming it had targeted militant targets in the northern Gaza Strip, and state that the IDF "will not tolerate any attempt to harm the safety of the residents of Israel."

According to Palestinian medical officials, there were no casualties in the Israeli attack. Eyewitnesses say Israel targeted empty Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip. 

Hamas officials refuse to confirm a rocket was fired at Israel, referring to it in reports as in Israeli claim. Estimates are that the rocket fire at Israel reflects a power struggle in Gaza between Hamas and other factions.

Sirens went off sounded in the city of Sderot and in other Gaza-bordering communities just before 10 P.M. on Thursday, and residents of the area reported hearing several explosions shortly after. Security services are scouring the area in an attempt to locate the precise landing site.

"We heard the siren, grabbed our child and rushed to the safe room," said Adi Betan Meiri, a resident of Sderot. "At first we thought it was a false alarm, probably because the rain had messed up the siren. Then we heard a loud explosion. The child was very scared, as were we. We closed the steel shutter which had been open for months."

A resident of Kibbutz Nir Am said that he had just returned with his family from Independence Day celebrations in the center of the country when they heard the siren. They were running towards a nearby bus stop when they heard the explosion.

Shai Hajaj, Head of the Merhavim Regional Council, confirmed that an alarm was heard, followed by a blast, and that no damage was done. "We trust the IDF will know how to react in order to maintain the quiet in the south, and will not allow random fire," he said.

A late night security assessment held following the incident was attended by, among others, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, and Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet security service.

The target of the IDF strike was a militant position in Beit Hanoun from which the rocket was fired, a source in the security services said. It is yet unclear to the security services who was behind the firing, but estimations are that it was not Hamas, he said.

The security services "See Hamas as the body responsile for the firing, and expect it to keep the peace in it's territory. Hamas is the body controlling the area, and must see to quiet – otherwise, it will suffer the consequences. We will not accept a state of errant fire," a security services source said.

Sirens went off in the Eshkol region, on the border with Gaza, last November and residents reported hearing explosions. The IDF at the time attributed the explosions to Hamas firing tests, saying that a rocket had fallen near the border area but within the strip.

A week earlier the "Red Code" system identified a rocket fired into Israel from Gaza, but the siren wasn't operated and the landing site of the rocket was never found.

The crossings between Gaza and Israel were closed as a result of the firing.