Fri, Dec 27, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Rocket sends Netanyahu to shelter during rally: TV

GAZA STRIP:In a veiled threat to retaliate for the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: ‘Whoever tried to make an impression just now should pack his bags’

Reuters, ASHKELON, Israel

A man checks the site of an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A rocket on Wednesday was launched from the Gaza Strip at a southern Israeli city where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign was hosting a rally, forcing him to take shelter briefly before resuming the event, Israeli TV stations reported.

The Israeli military confirmed the launch against Ashkelon, which is 12km from the Palestinian enclave, and said that the rocket was shot down by an Iron Dome air defense interceptor.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza, which is under the control of the Hamas Islamist movement and where a smaller armed faction, Islamic Jihad, exchanged fire with Israel during a two-day surge of violence last month.

Israeli TV stations showed Netanyahu, who was campaigning to keep the helm of the conservative Likud party in an internal election yesterday, being escorted off a stage by bodyguards, with the reports saying that he was taken to a shelter after sirens sounded.

It was the second such incident after a September appearance by Netanyahu in the nearby town of Ashdod was briefly disrupted by a rocket siren.

Israel sparked last month’s fighting in Gaza by assassinating Baha Abu al-Atta, an Islamic Jihad commander that it accused of ordering the launch against Ashdod.

“He [al-Atta] is no longer around,” a video circulated on social media showed a smiling Netanyahu saying after he retook the stage in Ashkelon, to cheers from onlookers.

In a veiled threat to retaliate for Wednesday’s attack, he added: “Whoever tried to make an impression just now should pack his bags.”

While Netanyahu is widely expected to retain Likud’s leadership, he faces a tough battle ahead of a March general election in Israel — its third in a year, after he and his centrist rival Benny Gantz failed to secure majorities in two previous ballots.

Netanyahu’s standing has been hurt by an indictment on corruption charges, which he denies.

Netanyahu’s failure to stem attacks from Gaza has been invoked by his political rivals.

“The situation in which Israeli citizens live at the mercy of terrorists and the prime minister of Israel is unable to tour parts of his country is a badge of shame on the security policy in the south — and a loss of deterrence that no sovereign country can accept,” Gantz, a former military commander, said in a statement on Wednesday.

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