Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefly pulled offstage during a campaign rally in southern Israel on Tuesday night after two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Netanyahu told the audience at the Likud rally in Ashdod to remain calm as security guards led him away and air raid sirens blared. He returned minutes later and continued addressing the crowd.
Israel Defense Forces said both rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. No injuries were reported and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket launches.
The rocket launches mark a major escalation of violence by the Palestinians, who usually only fire on those places during wartime. The rockets fired Tuesday night also had a much longer range than the Palestinians normally fire.
Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu pledged to begin annexing the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank if he wins national elections next week, sparking denunciations from world leaders.
Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations spokesman, said Tuesday that the organization maintains that any Israeli move to impose its administration over the Palestinian territory “would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace and the very essence of a two-state solution.”
Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said in a statement that annexation of Israel’s West Bank settlements would fan the flames of conflict around the region
Netanyahu’s Tuesday announcement appeared to be aimed at shoring up the support of hard-line nationalist voters. The prime minister said Israel must lay out its vision as President Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.