No injuries or damage reported; it is assumed rockets landed in open areas ■ Hamas, Islamic Jihad deny involvement ■ Netanyahu holds emergency security consultation ■ IDF spokesman says army ‘surprised’ by escalation
Two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, a first since Israel’s 2014 campaign in Gaza.
It is assumed that the rockets landed in open areas due to the fact that no damage or injuries were reported as of yet.
The last time rocket alerts were activated in Tel Aviv was two years ago, in what turned out to be a false alarm. The flare-up comes three weeks before Israel holds its general election.
Military spokesman Ronen Manelis told Channel 13 News that “we did not have advance knowledge of this fire today, and in fact it surprised us.”
Rocket sirens blared throughout Tel Aviv, with Israelis reported hearing that they heard blasts in the area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also acts as defense minister, is slated to hold an emergency security consultation in army headquarters in Tel Aviv.
A Palestinian source in Gaza told Haaretz that the rockets were fired from the northern part of the enclave, but that it was unclear which group initiated the fire. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have denied any involvement with the escalation.
‘Terrorists must pay personal price’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett of Hayamin Hehadash said Hamas should bear responsiblity for the rocket fire. “No matter who stands behind tonight’s rockets, Hamas should be held accountable,” he stated. He also called on Netanyahu to form a plan to assassinate Hamas chiefs. “I call on Netanyahu to order that the IDF present the cabinet a plan to defeat Hamas.”
Former army chief and leader of Kahol Lavan party Benny Gantz called the fire “severe” and argued Israel must respond with “significant and harsh” means in order to “renew its deterrence.” He said: “This adds to … many incidents we’ve experienced in recent months. We must act decisively against this breach of Israel’s sovereignty and security.”
Kahol Lavan co-leader Yair Lapid tweeted the rocket attack was “An unacceptable act of aggression.” He said “No government would accept attacks like this and Israel is no different. We will not tolerate any breach of our sovereignty and have the absolute right to respond with force and protect the people of Israel.”
Former defense minister and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman referred to Israel’s cash transfers to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, saying “Just this week the government approved the transfer of additional $20 million to Hamas. Even another ‘protection’ payment doesn’t bring quiet. On the contrary, it leads to further provocations … Terrorist leaders must pay a personal price.”
The Israel Police said it was not going to take special precautionary measures until it receives instructions to do so by the government.
The Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion municipalities both announced that they would open the cities’ public shelters. Nonetheless,public events in Tel Aviv are proceeding as planned, including a basketball game of Maccabi Tel Aviv attended by more than 10,000 people.
The incident follows weeks of tensions, with the most recent exchange taking place Saturday night when a projectile was launched at Israel. In response, the Israeli army carried out several airstrikes in the Strip, targeting several Hamas posts.