MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Hamas official denied firing the rocket that hit a house near Tel Aviv on Monday.
“No one from the resistance movements, including Hamas, has an interest in firing rockets from the Gaza Strip towards the enemy,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that the same message had been delivered to Egypt, which has acted as mediator between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli military said on Twitter the rocket had been fired from the Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 25, 2019
Major Mika Lifshitz, a military spokesperson, says two armor and infantry brigades were being mobilized to the area around the Hamas-run enclave and there is a limited drafting of reserves underway following the attack.
The Israeli military also said it will halt agricultural work near the security fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip “to improve readiness” for an escalation.
The military added that it would block routes and areas on the Israeli side of the fence and requested that residents “follow security instructions as long as necessary.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said that he is to cut short his trip to the United States due to the attack.
“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.
He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.
The rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.
The incident raised the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.
The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.
Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.
Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.
No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.
Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.
Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.
Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.
The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.
Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.
An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.