JERUSALEM (JTA) — A long-range rocket fired from Gaza scored a direct hit on a home in central Israel, injuring 7 including two infants.
Following the early Monday morning attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Defense Minister, announced that he would cut short his visit to Washington DC., and would return to Israel following his meeting with President Trump scheduled for Monday morning in Washington. His early return means he will not address the AIPAC policy conference live on Tuesday as scheduled.
Netanyahu said in a statement shortly after the attack announcing his return that Israel “will respond forcefully.”
Code Red rocket alert sirens sounded throughout the Sharon area of central Israel at about 5:20 a.m. on Monday. The Iron Dome missile defense system was not activated by the rocket. The Israel Defense Force said it was investigating why the system failed to deploy.
The home struck by the rocket is located in Moshav Mishmeret, a community of more than 1,000 residents located north of Tel Aviv near Netanya. In addition to collapsing in its center, the home caught fire. Shrapnel from the rocket damaged surrounding homes and pierced a gas tank, according to reports.
Family members inside the home had woken up from the alert siren, but did not have enough time to get to the home’s reinforced room. Several family dogs were killed in the attack. The family’s six-month-old infant will be kept in the hospital overnight and a 12-year-old girl is going in to surgery to remove shrapnel from her leg.
The IDF said that the rocket was fired from the area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, more than 50 miles from where it landed. It is the farthest that a rocket from Gaza has been fired since the Gaza war in 2014, where rockets struck Haifa. It is also the area where more than a week ago two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv.
Following the attack, the IDF closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings between Israel and Gaza. In addition, the IDF sent two brigades to southern Israel and was preparing to call up thousands of reservists.
No terror group in Gaza has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Israeli media report that only Hamas and Islamic Jihad have such long-range missiles. The IDF later confirmed Hamas as responsible. Hamas said the rocket was fired in error and that it does not want an escalation with Israel. The terror group said it is investigating why the rocket was launched.