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IDF says accidental Iron Dome launch triggered sirens, no rockets fired from Gaza

Israeli Iron Dome defence system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, stands near the Syrian border in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on May 9, 2018
JALAA MAREY (AFP)

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system was accidentally activated Thursday, triggering rocket alert sirens in Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza border.

As sirens sounded across the southern regions, thousands ran to seek protection in bomb shelters. Residents of the region reported hearing the sound of an explosion and seeing a trail of smoke stream across the sky.

The IDF later said that its Iron Dome aerial defense system “launched one interceptor following a false identification.”

“No launches were identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory,” it added.

The IDF did not say what the Iron Dome had incorrectly identified before it was fired.

The false alarm came amid reports of military “security operations” along the border. The army did not immediately provide details of the nature of the activities.

Following a short period of calm, tensions between Israel and the Gaza-based Hamas groups have increased in recent weeks as indirect talks between the two sides have stalled.

Border riots dubbed the "Great March of Return" have surged as new Hamas units emerged in an effort to sustain the pressure during the night.

ABBAS MOMANI / AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday for what he called the ongoing “low-intensity” conflict between Israel and Gaza, attributing it to the Palestinian Authority’s “suffocation” of the Strip.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is reportedly planning on cutting some $96 million in financial aid for the Gaza Strip, which it receives monthly. This could lead to a worsening of the already dire situation in Gaza where residents currently have a couple of hours of electricity available per day.

Abbas has sought to pressure Hamas in recent months by refusing to pay for his rivals' government salaries and for Israeli-supplied electricity in the Strip, leading to a severe power crisis and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the enclave.

The PA has staunchly criticized Qatar's decision to transfer fuel to the strip, arguing that it legitimizes Hamas. Despite Ramallah’s opposition, Doha also agreed to fund salaries for Hamas civil servants for a period of three months.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu on Wednesday headed to a meeting of his security cabinet on where he discussed the situation in Gaza, after reportedly warning that an offensive would be unavoidable if violence on the border were to once again intensify.

“If the reality of civil distress in Gaza is diminished, that is desirable, but that is not certain to happen, and so we are preparing militarily — that is not an empty statement,” said the premier according to a TV news report on Israel’s Hadashot.

Last week reinforcements - including snipers, infantry and armored forces -- were deployed along the border. Additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries were also sent to the south in preparation for possible rocket and mortar fire from Gaza.

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