Netanyahu rushed off stage in Ashkelon as rocket fired from Gaza triggers alarms

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Dec. 1, 2019. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushed off stage during a campaign event in Ashkelon after a rocket was fired from Gaza toward the southern Israeli city.

The Iron Dome missile defense system shot down the rocket fired Wednesday night. The event had been live-streamed on several websites, which suggests that the attackers knew where Netanyahu was at the time of the launch.

It is the second time in nearly four months that a Netanyahu event was interrupted by rocket fire. In September, just days before national elections, Netanyahu was rushed off a stage and into a bomb shelter in Ashdod as two rockets were fired at the city,

On Wednesday, Netanyahu returned to the stage from a shelter about 15 minutes after alert sirens sounded and threatened those who had fired the rocket.


“The person who fired the rockets last time is no longer with us. The person who fired one this time should start packing his things,” Netanyahu said.

Airstrikes were reported on targets in Gaza shortly after the Ashkelon attack, the Jerusalem Post reported. Gaza media said Khalil Batani, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, was behind the order to launch the rocket into Ashkelon, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.

In November, the Israel Defense Forces in a “surgical strike” killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Baha Abu al-Ata, in Gaza. Ata is believed to have ordered the September rocket attack.

“This situation in which Israeli citizens live at the mercy of terrorists and the Prime Minister of Israel is unable to tour parts of his country is a badge of shame on the security policy in the south — and a loss of deterrence that no sovereign country can accept,” Blue and White Party Chairman Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival for the premiership, said in a statement.