Rockets hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot near the Gaza Strip several hours before President Barack Obama was received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
U.S. President Barack Obama kicked off a four-day trip which includes stops in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan on Wednesday. Obama was in Jerusalem, about 50 miles from Sderot, when two rockets hit the southern Israeli town.
It is only the second instance of rockets being fired since the ceasefire following the eight-day exchange of missiles in November 2012 that killed nearly 200 Palestinians and six Israelis.
On February 26, a rocket hit the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon. Militants said the rocket was a sign of protest following the death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody, according to the Global Post.
No casualties were reported in Wednesday night’s attack, and no one has claimed responsibility for it, according to Reuters.
One rocket hit the back yard of a house in Sderot and the other landed in a field, reports the Global Post.
Obama visited Sderot in 2008 as a presidential candidate, and he reflected on that visit during a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday before the attack: “I’ve stood in Sderot, and met with children who simply want to grow up free from fear. And flying in today, I saw again how Israel’s security can be measured in mere miles and minutes.”
This is Obama’s first visit to Israel as president. His administration has said his aims inculde assuring Israelis of American support; discussing with Israeli leaders security threats in the region posed by Syria and Iran; and assuring the Palestinian Authority that the United States supports a two-state solution and the Palestinian efforts to build stable institutions.
Haim Malka, senior fellow and deputy director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says Obama aims to manage the problems in the region, not solve them, with this trip.
Malka said in a recorded statement on Wednesday that Obama “understands the pitfalls, which is why the White House has been trying to manage expectations since it announced the trip.”
“Ultimately,” said Malka, “the president will urge patience and restraint on both sides—patience that diplomacy and sanctions can slow down Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and patience that resuming negotiations and abandoning violence will eventually get Palestinians an independent state.”
President Abbas condemned Wednesday’s rocket attacks, according to Reuters.
AFP reporter Stephen Collinson describes the welcome Obama received Thursday morning by the Palestinian Authority as “prickly” compared to the welcome extended by Israeli leaders on Wednesday.
A military band greeted Obama at the courtyard of the Muqataa presidential compound. About 150 protesters were blocked off by security nearby, shouting “Obama, you’re not welcome here!” and “Obama, get out of Ramallah!”
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