Netanyahu Cuts Short U.S. Visit After Gaza Rocket Wounds Seven in Central Israel

The prime minister will return to Israel immediately after meeting with President Trump Monday morning, and will not deliver planned speech at AIPAC conference

Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 20, 2019.
Gil Cohen Magen

Following a rocket strike from Gaza that wounded seven in central Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to shorten his visit to the U.S. and return promptly after meeting with President Donald Trump Monday morning. 

Netanyahu will not be delivering his planned speech at the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference on Tuesday morning. He may yet deliver his speech over satellite from Israel.

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces said the rocket, which hit a house in central Israel, was fired from a Hamas position in the southern Gaza Strip.

Damage from the rocket strike in central Israel, March 25, 2019.
Megged Gozani

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Netanyahu said that Israel "will respond forcefully" to the attack from Gaza and that he was returning "to manage our operations up close." The prime minister held a remote briefing and consulation with the military chief of staff, the Shin Bet security service chief and the head of the National Security Council, he said.

Sources in Hamas said Yahya Sinwar, the group's leader in Gaza, had canceled a planned press briefing and that senior figures in the organization had gone into hiding in anticipation of an Israeli response. No Palestinian organization in Gaza has claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

According to Palestinian political analyst Adnan Abu Amer, the rocket was fired to show solidarity with Hamas prisoners at Ktzi'ot Prison. Twelve prisoners were injured in clashes at the prison Sunday night after prisoners stabbed two guards.

The much-anticipated AIPAC conference has stirred controversy in recent days, with several leading Democratic presidential contenders, including senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, announcing they will not be attending.

Speakers at AIPAC include Kahol Lavan co-chairman Benny Gantz, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.