Netanyahu Vows to Respond ‘Forcefully’ to Gaza Rocket that Hit Central Israel

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed to respond “forcefully” after a rocket fired early Monday morning from the Gaza Strip leveled a home at least 50 miles away in the central Israeli community of Mishmeret, injuring at least seven people, including two infants. Netanyahu also announced he was cutting short his trip to Washington and would return to Israel following a meeting today with President Donald Trump at the White House. According to Arab media, Egyptian mediators are working to prevent an escalation, although Hamas reportedly is preparing for a possible significant Israeli military operation and has evacuated its headquarters. In this respect, the Israel Defense Forces has deployed additional troops to the Gaza border and called up reservists for air-defense units. The rocket attack comes against the backdrop of last week’s launch of two missiles toward Tel Aviv, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. The other prjectile landed in an open area. While Hamas described that incident as a “mistake,” the IDF nevertheless responded by hitting 100 terrorist-manned positions in the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed that Monday’s rocket launch was activated by a lightning strike, which the Israeli military confirmed had been the case when two Grad rockets were launched at the southern city of Beersheba in October. This time around, there is concern that tensions could erupt this coming weekend, when Hamas hopes to draw tens of thousands of Gazans to the border fence with Israel to mark the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” protests, which have repeatedly descended into mass violence. Meanwhile, Monday’s attack opened a floodgate of criticism directed at Netanyahu from political rivals, who accused him of forfeiting Israeli deterrence by appeasing Hamas.

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