Damage from Gaza rocket cuts power to 70,000 in strip

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket fired from Gaza damaged power lines in Israel that resulted in the loss of power to 70,000 Palestinians in the coastal strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Infrastructure Minister Silvan Shalom instructed the Israel Electric Company not to endanger its employees by repairing the lines from Sunday night’s outage while the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza remains. The lines were knocked down at Kissufim, near the Gaza border.

“The power company plans to remedy the problem,” Israel Electric said in a statement sent to JTA late Sunday night. “However, in view of the security situation and the great danger faced by employees by making the repair under fire, the error will be corrected as soon as we possibly can in terms of security.”

Also Sunday, a rocket fired from Syria hit Israel on the Golan Heights. The rocket fell in an open area and caused no casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces said it believes the rocket fire was intentional and not a byproduct of the more than three-year civil war in Syria. The IDF responded with artillery fire in the direction of the rocket launch and confirmed hits on its targets.

Earlier in the evening, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket over the West Bank city of Ariel — the first time a rocket has reached the northern West Bank, some 52 miles away. A rocket fired at Jerusalem also was intercepted.

Meanwhile, some 17,000 Palestinian residents of Beit Lahiya left their homes — against the wishes of Hamas — after Israeli leaflets encouraging them to leave ahead of a military operation were dropped on the area, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency told Israel Radio.

On Sunday, the Gaza Ministry of Health said that over 166 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,000 injured since Israel started its Operation Protective Edge early last Tuesday, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday reportedly called Netanyahu and offered help from the United States in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Netanyahu appeared Sunday morning on “Fox News Sunday,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN’s “State of the Union” to defend Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

The IDF said that 130 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel on Sunday and 22 more were intercepted by Iron Dome. Since the start of Protective Edge, more than 700 rockets have hit Israel, according to the IDF.

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a $121.8 million aid package for residents and communities of southern Israel, who have been hard hit by Gaza rockets. About half the aid will be given to the town of Sderot.

The government said it also will establish five mental wellness centers offering psychological and social work services, mainly for children affected by the conflict. The aid package includes an income tax credit and property tax breaks for residents and businesses.