Two rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip at the Tel Aviv area in the first such attack there since the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave.
The salvo caused no damage or casualties.
But it rattled Israeli nerves ahead of an April 9 election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term on the strength of his national security and diplomatic credentials.
After air raid sirens howled throughout Tel Aviv and surrounding towns, several explosions were heard in Israel’s coastal populated areas.
TV footage showed Israeli interceptor missiles streaking into the sky and detonating.
BREAKING VIDEO: Video shows Iron dome intercept rockets fired from Gaza.Hamas is leading the area to war!! Tel Aviv city hall is opening shelters for the general public. pic.twitter.com/5a2dOmggC6
— The Israel Project (@israelproject) March 14, 2019
Despite the apparent activation of Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, the military said no rockets were shot down nor landed in any built-up areas.
It was the first time sirens had sounded in the city since the 2014 Gaza war between the territory’s dominant Hamas Islamists and Israel.
There have been several smaller rounds of fighting since, reined in by Egyptian and UN mediations.
“We don’t know who carried it out,” military spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis told Israel Radio, adding: “The Hamas organisation is the main organisation in the Strip. It is responsible for what happens within the Strip and what emanates from it.”
Hamas denied involvement for the rocket salvo, which it said took place as its leaders met Egyptian delegates about efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire with Israel.
The Hamas administration vowed to “take measures” against those behind the salvo, which it described as violating the “factional and national consensus” governing Gaza.
Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two smaller Gaza armed factions, also denied responsibility.
Israeli analysts speculated that Palestinian militants opposed to any deal between Hamas and Israel were behind the launchings.
About 40 minutes after the alarm, traffic was flowing normally on Tel Aviv’s main highway.
Still, the municipality asked residents to open bomb shelters as a precaution. Netanyahu, who doubles as Israel’s defence minister, was conferring with military and security staff, his office said.