A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv on Monday, wounding seven Israelis and leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a visit to the United States.
Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.
Netanyahu is currently in Washington and said he would return home after meeting US President Donald Trump later Monday, cancelling an address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference on Tuesday.
Israel also closed its people and goods crossings with the blockaded Gaza Strip and reduced the zone in the Mediterranean it allows for Palestinian fishermen off the enclave, a statement said.
The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, around 20 kilometres north of Tel Aviv, police said.
Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometres from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.
The hospital treating the wounded said seven Israelis were injured lightly by burns and shrapnel, including four adults and three children.
One of the wounded was a six-month-old child and six of them were members of the same family.
The house was destroyed in the wake of the rocket and subsequent fire, with burnt wood, a children’s toy and other debris piled at the site.
Netanyahu said “there has been a criminal attack on the state of Israel and we will respond with force.”
“I have decided, due to the security incidents, to cut short my visit to the United States,” he said in a video released by his office.
“I will meet President Trump in a few hours and just after that I will return to Israel to lead closely the operations.”
There was no immediate response from Hamas or other militant groups in Gaza.
The rocket comes after mounting tensions in recent weeks.
Netanyahu is believed by many analysts to want to avoid another war in the Gaza Strip – the fourth since 2008 – with unpredictable results ahead of the elections.
But he faces a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by former military chief Benny Gantz and he will come under heavy political pressure to react firmly.
Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Tel Aviv – also rare – on March 14.
No damage or injuries were caused but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.