The Iron Dome anti-missile aerial defense system intercepted at least one rocket fired from Gaza at the Ashkelon region at around 3:20 am Monday morning, according to the IDF Spokesperson.
Residents living in the area said they heard two loud explosions, but reported no injuries or property damage.
The Red Alert incoming rocket alert system was triggered in the Ashkelon Region and Ashkelon Beach Regional Council district. Israelis — awakened out of their sleep — were sent scrambling to grab their young children and make a run for their safe rooms and nearest bomb shelters.
?3:00AM, ISRAEL: Sirens sounded in the city of Ashkelon and the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Details to follow. pic.twitter.com/TxoIXCkqRy
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) January 7, 2019
Earlier in the evening, IDF helicopters attacked two Hamas military observation posts in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
The air strike came in retaliation for a potentially deadly bombing by Hamas, launched from Gaza via a bright, colorful bunch of balloons festooned with glittery Arabic writing, tied to what appeared to be a toy airplane but in actuality was a drone, attached to an improvised explosive device (IED).
The explosive balloon bomb, clearly intended to kill an unwary Israeli child or adult, landed in the Sdot Negev Regional Council district. The IED itself exploded as a police sapper was trying to dismantle it.
In a separate development, the Palestinian Authority announced Sunday that it decided to withdraw its employees from the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The decision goes into effect on Monday morning and allegedly was made in response to so-called “measures” by Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, according to a statement published by the PA Civilian Affairs Administration.