Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was escorted off a stage by bodyguards and evacuated from a campaign event in southern Israel on Wednesday after local media reported that a rocket from Gaza aimed at the region was fired.
After sirens sounded, Netanyahu and his wife Sara took shelter briefly near the campaign venue, before resuming the event in Ashkelon, Israeli TV stations reported. Netanyahu was campaigning to maintain his leadership of the conservative Likud party in an internal election on Thursday.
The Israeli Defense Forces confirmed the rocket launch, tweeting on Wednesday, the fourth night of Hanukkah: “On Hanukkah, the festival of miracles, Israel’s modern miracle—the Iron Dome—just intercepted a rocket mid-air after it was fired from #Gaza at Israeli civilians.”
It was the second such incident since September when Netanyahu’s appearance in Ashdod was briefly disrupted by a rocket siren. At the time, the Israeli PM was campaigning for the second general Israeli election of the year.
Israel accused the then-top commander from the Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad, Baha Abu Al-Atta, of being responsible for the launch, Reuters reported.
Israel assassinated Al-Atta in a targeted strike in the Gaza Strip on Nov. 12. Israeli officials described Al-Atta as a “ticking bomb,” responsible for a string of recent cross-border rocket, drone, and sniper attacks and suspected of planning more.
The Islamic Jihad responded to the assassination by firing rockets at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, sparking a two-day surge of violence between Islamic Jihad and Israel in November.
“He who fired [rockets] last time isn’t with us anymore,” Netanyahu said After resuming the event on Wednesday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. “And he who fired now, better start packing his belongings.”
“This isn’t an attack on me or on Ashkelon, it’s not that. These are recurring attacks on our communities, and they think that we won’t hurt them or that we’ll break down,” he added.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Gaza for the latest attack at Ashkelon. The area is under the control of Hamas Islamists.
Reuters contributed to this report.