Two Rockets Fired at Israel, Hundreds of Palestinians Protest at Gaza Border

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An Iron Dome air defense system located in the Israeli city of Ashkelon fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip
An Iron Dome air defense system located in the Israeli city of Ashkelon fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza StripCredit: Tsafrir Abayov,AP

Two rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip Saturday evening, the military said, a day after Israel struck targets in the Strip following a barrage of 36 rockets that were shot at Israel.

One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome, while the other fell in an open area near the border fence.

Rocket sirens blared in the southern city of Sderot and residents in the area reported hearing blasts as the rocket was intercepted.

A second rocket alert sounded an hour and a half later in Kibbutz Nirim, near the Gaza border. The rocket fell near the border fence.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians protested along the border, the Israeli army said. At the height of the protest, the army estimated that 700 Palestinians took part. The protesters burned tires and attempted to approach the fence. The army said that they responded with riot dispersal methods.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett slammed the rocket attack, saying "The terrorists in Gaza are going crazy, firing rockets at citizens of southern Israel. It's on the government to act immediately with all the tools at their disposal to restore security for Israelis." 

Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich also commented on the rockets fired from Gaza, suggesting it was time to "replace" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

"After countless terror incidents and lynchings by the Arab enemy in recent days, and after a rocket barrage from Gaza on southern communities, did Netanyahu seriously call this evening to 'calm the spirits on all sides?'" Smotrich tweeted. 

Netanyahu's Likud party responded to Smotrich by saying “After the prime minister and Likud contributed three seats to Religious Zionism and reserved them another seat (on Likud’s slate), and since Smotrich is not a party to security assessments, it would be best for him to show humility and gratitude and not lash out at the prime minister.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, also condemned the latest events with Gaza, saying that Netanyahu "must order the IDF to launch a round of assassinations and respond with launching rockets back at the terrorists, and not at empty sand dunes."

Ben-Gvir made his comments before Saturday's latest rocket fire from Gaza. 

Israel had its most significant standoff with the Gaza Strip in months on Friday night, as the IDF struck Hamas positions in the enclave and 36 rockets from fringe militant groups were fired at southern Israel.

The initial response from an Israeli tank came after the first missiles were fired at around 11 P.M. Following the strike, at least 17 more rockets were fired at communities in southern Israel.

Over the course of the night, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted six rockets, while the rest fell in open areas, the IDF said. 

The IDF reported early Saturday morning that its jets struck Hamas' underground infrastructure and rocket launchers in Gaza. Sources in the strip also reported shelling at a Hamas position east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Fatah-linked Nidal al-Amoudi Division of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, the armed wing of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for the rockets, and both said that their operations were carried out in response to recent violence in Jerusalem. 

It is unlikely that the groups would've fired rockets without Hamas' consent, sources in Gaza said.

Netanyahu held a security cabinet meeting on Saturday regarding the recent rocket fire. After the meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel is ready for any security threat. 

The Israeli military had initially instructed local residents to remain close to bomb shelters and avoid gatherings and agricultural work on Saturday morning, but removed the restrictions two hours later. Israel held talks with Hamas early Saturday morning via intermediaries to try to halt the rocket fire; the IDF reversed course on limiting movement in border communities based on these discussions.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi will hold another assessment in the coming hours to decide which additional measures the military will take in response to the intensified rocket fire.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said Saturday morning that the "Palestinian resistance forces in the Strip are ready to block any aggression and set the tone of the response to any fire and aggression from Israel." He added, "The Palestinian people and resistance forces support and identify with the Palestinians in Jerusalem."

Islamic Jihad released a statement saying that "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and the Palestinian people stand behind Al-Aqsa and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and will not allow settlers to harm the holiness of the mosque." It added, "The resistance forces will respond to any aggression and provide defense to the Palestinian people." 

The first rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome was fired at the kibbutz of Kissufim. Eshkol Regional Council, where the kibbutz is located, initially reported no casualties or damage. The local councils of Sdot Negev, Sha'ar HaNegev, and Hof Ashkelon were targeted later.

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