Gaza Rockets Strike Southern Israel; Local Mayors Call for Strong Response
Rockets were fired from Gaza toward southern Israel late on Wednesday night, setting off the country’s Code Red missile warning system in towns including Ashkelon and Netivot, and in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.
Explosions from the rockets were heard in Sdot Negev and near Ashkelon, and security forces rushed to the scene of the strikes to search for the rockets which fell in open areas, NRG news reported.
Ashkelon’s mayor, Itamar Shimoni, said that despite the rocket fire, city services would not be disrupted and that schools would be open in the morning as usual. Shimoni also advised residents to remain vigilant.
The chairman of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, struck an angrier tone, saying, “we are preparing for the summer, and once again we find ourselves faced with alarms and [rockets] falling into our territory.” He demanded that, “the army and the state respond harshly to each [rocket] launch, to ensure residents’ safety in the region surrounding the Gaza Strip, and the entire south, and to allow our children to have an enjoyable summer vacation.”
Last week, a rocket exploded in the Ashdod area without causing any casualties or damage. Officials in the Gaza Strip said on Tuesday that the projectile was fired off by a Salafist organization operating in Gaza by the name of “Sheikh Amr Hadid Brigades, Bait Al-Maqdis.” Ultimately, the group also claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Salafist organization, which is suspected of having links to the Islamic State, heavily criticized Gaza’s rulers Hamas in the wake of the attack for attempting to maintain calm with Israel yet combating Salafists in Gaza. They said, “Hamas has chosen to open up a conflict against our Salafist friends, but we in the Sheikh Amr Hadid Brigades choose to aim our weapons against the Jews alone.”
Even rival terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) voiced its opposition to firing rockets at Israel, and called for continued cooperation with Hamas in order to maintain calm. However, this was not a unanimous position within PIJ’s leadership.