Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets toward south Israel at dawn on Monday. A number of explosions were heard shortly after the "Color Red" siren warning of the incoming rockets sounded in communities located within the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council.
One of the rockets was apparently intercepted by the "Iron Dome" air defense system, while the other apparently landed in an open area. There were no reports of injury or damage.
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In response to the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft attacked two rocket launchers in north Gaza and identified direct hits, the army's Spokesperson's Unit said.
"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to hurt the citizens of the State f Israel and IDF soldiers, and it will continue to operate against any element that uses terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror group is responsible," the army's statement said.
Shortly before the IDF released the statement, Palestinian sources in Gaza said the IDF attacked a target in Gaza City. A spokesman for Hamas' Health Ministry confirmed that Israel struck in Gaza and said there were no injuries.
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According to Palestinian reports, the Hamas government ordered the evacuation of the headquarters of its security forces in Gaza for fear of another IDF attack.
Ashkelon Beach Regional Council Head Yair Farjun said, "The shooting of the rockets is additional proof of the strangeness of the government's decision to cancel some of the security mechanisms for the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip."
Following Monday's rocket fire on Israel, the heads of regional councils in the south wrote a letter in which they requested an urgent meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon regarding the decision to pull soldiers out of frontline communities.
"The sector is heating up again. The firing (of rockets) is an existing fact, as are the terror tunnels and infiltration attempts. We will not be able to accept this mistaken decision, which hurts the security of the residents," wrote Alon Shuster, Haim Yalin and Farjoun, the heads of the Sha'ar Hanegev, Eshkol and Hof Ashkelon regional councils, respectively.
"We received with regret your decision to approve the General Staff's recommendation to cancel the protection for communities located on the front lines. We consider your decision as a move that undermines trust and hurts the resident's resilience," the letter read.
Ya'alon's office said in response that the defense minister accepted the army's recommendation after considering all the alternatives. "The protection of communities in the south and the north is currently based on a number of components, including an electronic barrier, advanced intelligence instruments and combat forces stationed near and inside the communities."
The previous rocket attack from Gaza occurred nearly a month ago. In early October, a rocket fired from the Hamas-ruled territory landed in an open area near a community in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injury or damage in that attack either. In August, rockets were fired toward the Sderot area, and that same month, for the first time, the "Iron Dome" system intercepted a rocket fired toward Eilat. During the holiday of Sukkot, a rocket exploded in the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council, but caused no injury or damage.
Monday's rocket fire came just hours after Israel released the names of the 26 Palestinian security prisoners who are slated to be released this week. The prisoners comprise the second group of four to be released as part of the agreement to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As part of the deal, Israel is expected to release a total of 104 prisoners.
It remains unclear whether the rocket attack is connected to the prisoners' release, but in the past, terror groups in Gaza tried to "score points" with the Palestinian street in response to Israeli gestures meant to embolden Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
All 26 prisoners slated for release committed their crimes prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords and have served between 19 and 28 years in Israeli jails. Twenty-one prisoners are from Gaza, while five hail from the West Bank. On Sunday, a ministerial committee that oversees the release of security prisoners approved the release of the 26 Palestinians.
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