Hamas officials have said that the rocket which struck a home in central Israel injuring seven civilians was fired from the Gaza Strip by mistake, Israeli media reported Monday morning.
According to the reports after the long-range J-80 rocket was fired by Hamas operatives by mistake, the group evacuated positions across the coastal enclave in anticipation for an Israeli retaliation.
Meanwhile Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nahaleh warned Israel against any retaliatory strikes, saying "we warn the enemy against any aggression on the Gaza Strip. Its leaders must understand that we will respond strongly to any aggression.”
Seven people were injured Monday morning the rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck a private home in central Israel, the third long-range rocket fired from the Hamas-run enclave in two weeks.
Netanyahu shortens his visit to US to respond to rocket strike, March 25, 2019 (Reuters)
The attack triggered Code Red incoming rocket sirens at around 5:20 a.m. throughout the Sharon and Emek Hefer regions and a loud explosion was heard after the rocket struck the home in the community of Mishmeret north of Kfar Saba.
The strike set off a fire in the home, destroying it completely.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon visited the house where the rocket landed and said that "'The bomb shelter saved the life of my family.' This is what the father of the family said to me and that is a message to all the residents of Israel, as soon as you hear an alarm - go to the bomb shelter. I do not wish anyone to go through such an event, but if there is an alarm, do not be lazy and go to the bomb shelter."
Magen David Adom rescue services said that seven people, including two children and an infant, were treated for wounds and evacuated to Meir Hospital.
Of those injured, a woman in her 60s was in moderate condition suffering from blast injuries, minor burns and shrapnel wounds and a woman in her 30s was in moderate condition with shrapnel injuries. Two men aged 60 and 30 as well as a girl aged 12, a 3 year-old boy and a 18 month-old infant, were lightly injured.
Several neighbors are being treated for shock and four dogs were found dead on site.
The Israeli military said that it had identified the launch of one rocket from the Gaza Strip, some 100 kilometers away from where it struck. The Iron Dome missile defense system had not been activated.
Following the attack Israel decided to close the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings as well as well reduce the permitted fishing area off the coast of the Gaza Strip until further notice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington, held a telephone consultation with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi,the head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman, National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior security officials
"I spoke to the IDF Chief of Staff, head of the Shin Bet and head of Intelligence and that he sees this as a criminal act against the State of Israel,” he said, adding that he has cut his trip to the US short and return to “manage our operations up close.”
Netanyahu is set to meet with US President Donald Trump and will return to Israel after his meeting. He has cancelled his speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin revealed that "I have two granddaughters and a grandson who live in one of the communities in the area and this morning I told them to go to school and kindergarten as normal and that everything was OK.”
"We will not allow this wicked terrorism to shake us,” Rivlin exclaimed.
Benny Gantz, the Head of the Blue and White Party and Netanyahu’s main opponent, called on Netanyahu to deal with the crisis and not his personal issues.
Gantz tweeted that "those who do not respond with force and instead [pay] Hamas, dismiss attacks on the citizens of the south, and scorn the attack on Tel Aviv, now get rockets in the Hasharon region."
"Will he now, as well, be satisfied with Hamas's claim of an error or will he finally focus on the security of the citizens of the state and not on his legal issues?" Gantz continued. "I wish the wounded a speedy recovery."
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, announced Monday the closure of the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, as well as the reduction of the fishing area in the Gaza Strip until further notice.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted, "This is a deliberate and dangerous act of aggression by Palestinian terrorists, encouraged no doubt by the complacency of @UNHumanRights . We will not allow this!"
European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted, "Following with grave concern developments after a family home was destroyed in Moshav Mishmeret in central Israel by a rocket from Gaza. Wishing early recovery to those wounded. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians unacceptable."
The attack comes as tensions run high with the Gaza Strip ahead of Land Day and the one year anniversary marking the beginning of the Great Return March border riots. In recent weeks the rioting has increased in violence, with violent night-time riots and dozens of incendiary and explosive balloons flown into southern Israel.
Domestically Hamas is also facing protests by local Gazans who are rising up against the worsening humanitarian conditions in the blockaded enclave.
Also on Sunday night a riot in the Kzt’iot prison left two corrections officers and dozens of Hamas members wounded.
The rocket attack came 10 days after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv by Hamas, the first time since the 2014 war. One of the rockets struck an open area in the city of Holon just south of Israel’s financial capital. The Israeli army retaliated by striking some 100 targets across the Hamas-run coastal enclave.
The army said that the rockets were likely fired towards Tel Aviv by mistake.
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