A loud explosion rocked the western Negev on Thursday night as Palestinian gunmen in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel.
The rocket exploded in an open area in the Merhavim Regional Council. Three cows were injured and a cattle-shed sustained damage.
This was the first Grad rocket to be fired from the Gaza Strip since July, and the first to hit the Ofakim area since Operation Cast Lead.
Earlier this month, the Israel Defense Forces assassinated
two senior members of the al-Qaeda
affiliated Army of Islam group.
At around 3:15 am, residents in the Ofakim area and the Eshkol, Sdot Negev and Merhavim Regional Council reported hearing an air raid siren followed by a blast. Residents of a moshav near Netivot told Ynet that "a loud explosion was heard in the entire area."
The security forces were working to locate the rocket, but were facing difficulties due to heavy fog.
Owner of cattle-shed hit by rocket (Photo: Eliad Levy)
"We woke up from the explosion and went out to look, but it was dark so we went back to sleep. In the morning we woke up and saw the damage," said Yahu Madmoni, a father of three who lives in the area, and whose parents own the dairy farm hit by the rocket.
"The rocket fell 150 meters from our house, near my parents' cattle-shed. Three cows were injured, and a water container and the cattle-shed's roof were damaged. Our Thai worker, who lives not far from the landing site, got up to milk the cows and found that some of them were injured."
According to Madmoni, the rocket alert system was not activated in the night. His wife Naomi added, "Some of the cows were hurt by shrapnel and a solar water-heater was broken, but what can we do? We'll continue to live here. We don't have a fortified room or anything. There were no casualties this time, but who knows what will happen next time."
Avner Mori, head of the Merhavim Regional Council, said the government was responsible for the situation. "This morning's rocket fire reminds all of us that peace isn’t here yet and that the government must care for the residents' protection immediately. I don't want to stress out the residents, but it's starting to worry me."
The council plans to demand that the Color Red alert system be returned to communities located 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) away from the border.
On Thursday evening, a Qassam rocket exploded
in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. At around 4:30 am, Palestinians fired another Qassam, this time at the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. A blast was heard in the area, although the rocket landed near the Palestinian side of the border fence. There were no reports of injuries or damage in both incidents.
Gaza sources said Friday morning that the Hamas
organization was not interested in a conflict. According to Hamas sources, the group's security forces were continuing their routine security-related activity in the Seam Line area, which is aimed at maintaining calm in Gaza.
Nonetheless, Hamas blamed Israel for the recent escalation, noting the assassination of two Army of Islam members. According to the source, Israel is attempting to ignite the situation with groundless claims about the organization's activity in Sinai.
"It's unclear if this is an attempt to justify the failure of the negotiations or an attempt to sacrifice the Strip for the sake of the talks. In any event, this is a clear Israeli attempt to drag the Palestinians in the Strip to respond to the Israeli crimes."
According to Hamas, the Palestinian organizations have the right to retaliate "Israel's recent crimes and assassinations." It is estimated, however, that the group will hold talks with the different Gaza groups as early as Friday morning in a bid to prevent further escalation.
The last Grad rocket fired from Gaza landed
near an apartment building in Ashkelon. Eight people suffered from shock. Less than a week later, rockets were fired from Sinai into Eilat and Aqaba, killing one Jordanian man.
On Thursday, Army of Islam issued a Hebrew threat
to avenge Israel's killing of two of its members in Gaza, in what an expert said was the first use of the language for such propaganda.
In the half-minute-long recording posted on a website used by the al-Qaeda affiliated group, a hoarse male voice tells the "aggressor Jews" they will not be safe from rockets and other attacks until they "leave the land of Palestine".
Ali Waked, Shmulik Hadad and Gil Naveh contributed to this report
Initial information received via Red Email