Palestinian terrorists launched rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel
Thursday morning – the second day of US President Barack Obama’s visit – and in
response, newly appointed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon restricted the fishing
area to three miles from the Gaza coast and closed a cargo crossing
One projectile hit and damaged a home in Sderot. A second fell in
an open area of the neighboring Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Initial reports
spoke of four rockets, two of which are believed to have landed within the Gaza
There were no injuries.
Senior security sources said they
believed that a small terrorist organization in Gaza was behind the attack, and
not Hamas. A Salafi group calling itself Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin said in an
Internet statement that it had fired the rockets to show that Israeli air defenses could not stop attacks on the Jewish state during Obama’s
The US president, who was in Jerusalem, about 80 km. from Sderot,
when the rockets hit, later told journalists it was up to Hamas, which controls
Gaza, to stop such strikes.
“We condemn this violation of the important
ceasefire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians, a violation Hamas has a
responsibility to prevent,” Obama said on the next stop on his visit, in the
West Bank city of Ramallah.
A police bomb squad and emergency officials
arrived at the two blast zones to retrieve the projectiles and document the
damage. It was the second ceasefire violation by terrorists in two months. On
February 26 a rocket from the Gaza Strip struck a road south of Ashkelon,
causing damage but no injuries.
The clampdown on coastal fishing that
came in response to Thursday’s attack reduced the open zone to three miles from
six. It canceled the expansion that had been in place since the end of Operation
Pillar of Defense of last year.
The border crossing that was closed was
the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal.
The IDF’s Coordination of Government
Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit added that the Erez pedestrian
terminal at the northern end of the strip had been ordered to reduce its level
Returning crossings to their normal levels of activity
would be conditioned on security assessments, COGAT added.
the areas hit by Thursday’s rockets said they had been surprised to hear sirens
blaring once again after a long period of calm.
“We woke up to the sound
of a strange whistle [made by the rockets],” said a man from Sderot.
thought the sirens had been a mistake.”
Sderot Mayor David Buskila said
the rockets bore a message from Palestinian factions in Gaza, signalling that
they would be the ones setting the tone for the region rather than Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Later on Thursday, during a dinner at
President Shimon Peres’s official residence, Buskila gave Obama a letter on
behalf of his constituents urging him to grant clemency to Israeli agent
The letter, written before the rockets fell, said: “You
have seen Sderot during a very difficult time. Please accept our heartfelt
request to grant clemency.”
Bayit Yehudi figures also viewed the rockets
as being a clear message to Obama.
“I am sure that Obama remembers his
personal, emotional visit to Sderot and his words there, that if someone would
shoot at the house where his two young daughters were sleeping he would do
everything to stop them,” Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel
Ariel added that he was sure Obama identified with the local
residents and would stand by Israel’s side and respond decisively to the
Palestinians “so that this reality will not exist anymore in the Gaza Strip or
in Judea and Samaria.”
According to MK Orit Struck, “the rockets that
Palestinians from Gaza launched are the best display of public diplomacy
possible during the US president’s visit, which clearly shows why Israel cannot
withdraw from Judea and Samaria.”
In recent days, the IDF Home Front
Command and officials from the Netivot municipality tested a new
three-dimensional simulator that enables local authorities to practice their
responses to rocket and missile attacks.
Lahav Harkov, Gil Hoffman and
Reuters contributed to this report.