The two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward Tel Aviv on Thursday night, were likely launched mistakenly by Hamas, the IDF said on Friday.
“There is a growing assumption that the Hamas rocket fire towards the Gush Dan region was by mistake,” the military said Friday morning, adding that the IDF sees the group as responsible for everything happening in the coastal enclave.
It wasn’t immediately clear which group in Gaza was responsible for the rocket fire with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other group all denying as being behind it. Hamas said it was attempting to prevent any further escalation and promised to take action against the perpetrators as the rocket fire “went against the national consensus.”
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 13 News, low-level Hamas militants had “messed with” a rocket launcher that had been prepared to fire on Tel Aviv in a future military confrontation with Israel.
The rockets apparently were fired when Hamas leaders including Yayha Sinwar was meeting with an Egyptian delegation who were in the Strip who angrily asked him “you’re meeting with us at the same time as you’re firing on Tel Aviv?”
The Egyptians then called the IDF and explained that the M-75 rockets had been mistakenly launched and that the group was “embarrassed” by the event. The Israelis then told the Egyptians to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing.
Israel then began its strikes on Gaza, with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi personally choosing the targets, the Channel 13 report said, adding that had the rocket fire been deliberate there would have been 500 strikes instead of 100.
Meet the people behind Thursday night's attack throughout the Gaza Strip pic.twitter.com/up6r7CQle6— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) March 16, 2019
Earlier in the week the IDF inaugurated the new Targeting Center which will serve as a focal point in the acquisition of emergency and routine targets in the military. According to the IDF, the center has been operating for a month and has been prioritizing the southern front, as part of an effort to improve readiness for fighting in the Gaza Strip as order by Kochavi.
The military struck 100 targets in the Hamas-run Strip throughout the night Friday, including the headquarters responsible for the planning and execution of terror attacks in the West Bank, an underground complex that served as Hamas' main rocket-manufacturing site, and a military training site that also functioned as the group’s drone program.
Several underground infrastructures and military compounds were also struck, including naval sites belonging to the group were also struck.
Local Palestinian media in Gaza said that Israeli naval vessels also took part in the strikes off the coast of Rafah.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said there were no immediate reports of casualties but there were several injuries including a woman who had to have her hand amputated.
During the airstrikes three Red Alert incoming rocket siren were activated in Israeli communities bordering the southern Gaza Strip.According to the military nine projectiles were launched from the Strip, with six being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, another fell inside Gaza. While shrapnel were discovered outside a school in the city of Sderot, there were no reports of injuries or damage.
The Israeli airstrikes came in response to two rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv from Gaza. Sirens were activated throughout the Gush Dan regional council in central Israel around 9PM with two loud explosions heard.
On Friday the Israel Police announced that they had located the remains of one rocket which, according to reports, had fallen in an open area in the city of Holon outside of Tel Aviv. The second rocket is believed to have landed in the sea. There was no damage or injuries.
“Two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory. The alert and warning systems operated as required,” the army said. “No interceptions were made by aerial defense systems. No damage or injuries were reported. There are no special instructions for the civilian home front.”
Five people were treated for shock.
Following the rockets, Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security consultations at the Kirya IDF Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Nadav Argaman and other senior defense officials.
The missile launches come two weeks ahead of the one year anniversary of the Great Return March demonstrations along the Gaza border fence and less than a month before the April 9 Knesset elections. They also came two months before the Eurovision Song Contest is due to take place in Tel Aviv, with thousands of tourists from across the world expected to visit.