Nine rockets from Gaza targeted Israeli border towns and Tel Aviv late March 14 and into the morning of March 15. Six were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, one failed to clear the border, and the other two fell in open fields.
No injuries or property damage were reported, though fragments of missiles were found in a Sderot school, and remains of a rocket were discovered in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon on March 15, causing police to dispatch sappers (combat soldiers) and Iron Dome systems to be further deployed throughout the region.
Many in the Israel Defense Forces believe that the rockets targeting Tel Aviv were a mistake, and that low-level Hamas operatives were responsible for the strike, The Times of Israel reported.
Hamas denied being behind the attacks, but on Twitter, the IDF said, “We can confirm that the rockets from #Gaza at #TelAviv earlier tonight were launched by the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Israel’s Channel 13 reported late March 15 that the two rockets targeting Tel Aviv, bringing the region to the verge of war, were, in fact, fired accidentally. The report described the incident as, “like something out of Monty Python,” noting the comedic underpinnings of the very serious event.
Low-level Hamas operatives were adjusting a rocket launcher that was set to fire on Tel Aviv in the event of future conflict, inadvertently setting it off. The rockets were fired while Hamas leaders were meeting with Egyptian mediators to discuss Israel lifting economic restrictions in Gaza, and reportedly infuriated those mediators.
The TV report also noted that Hamas arrested at least one individual over the accidental missile assault, according to The Times of Israel.
Initially responding to the aggression, Israeli planes retaliated by hitting more than 100 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Among those hit, according to the IDF, were the headquarters responsible for planning and execution of attacks in Gaza and a Hamas naval commando base.
Several strikes also hit Gaza City and a site in Beit Lahiya in Northern Gaza, according to Palestinian media. The Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, reported no immediate casualties.
The attacks on Tel Aviv represent the first on a city in the center of the nation since 2014 and could signal increased aggression and tension ahead of Knesset elections.
Since the attacks, it has been reported that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire organized by Egyptian mediators. Israeli public broadcaster Kan and Palestinian media reported the agreement March 15, but as of Friday Israel had not confirmed those reports.
These incidents could have a significant impact on upcoming Knesset elections, and ministers were quick to make their thoughts known in the wake of the attacks.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the New Right party, called the response “pathetic.”
“I have to tell the truth, I cannot imagine that after a mistake attack on Moscow, Putin would have explained to the Russians that the enemy ‘did it by mistake,’” Bennett said in a statement.
Bennett called out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his poor handling of the situation. Netanyahu is also defense minister, a role Bennett lobbied for in November.
“There can be no more excuses,” Bennett said. “I call on the prime minister to lead a strong campaign against Hamas, and if he does not know how to do it, to give someone else the defense portfolio so that we can finish the job.”
Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, was equally critical of the prime minister’s response to the incident.
“The security agenda is unfortunately being set not by Israel but by Yahya Sinwar and the heads of Hamas,” Gantz said. “Israel must return the initiative to its hands, with tougher policies that will make Hamas want to restore complete quiet.”
Gantz demanded that Israel be more proactive in its interactions with the terror group.
“Instead of quiet being met with quiet, attacks have been met with suitcases of money,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu must keep his promise and end his policies of hesitancy.”