Netanyahu escapes, ends election speech for supporters at press conference in Ashdod

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced on Tuesday to end an election speech for his supporters in Ashdod following rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, according to Hebrew media.

Netanyahu was forced to end his speech at an election rally for his supporters in the city of Ashdod after the sirens sounded in the area, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on its website.

Channel 11 on Israeli television broadcast footage of members of the body responsible for protecting Netanyahu approaching the podium while delivering a speech, one whispering in the prime minister’s ear, waving his hand, saying goodbye and leaving the building.

Several rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, southern Israel, according to Israel’s official Kan TV channel.

The channel added that there were no casualties from the rocket fire, while the municipality of Ashkelon ordered the opening of shelters in anticipation of any security escalation.

In a brief statement, the Israeli army announced that the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system intercepted two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards the south.

The sirens sounded near the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, the army said, without giving further details.

The incident came less than three hours after Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he was re-elected on September 17, in a declaration that angered Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party later released a video via WhatsApp showing the prime minister returning to the festival venue to continue speaking from the podium after the siren stopped.

Netanyahu commented that the incident proves that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, fears winning the elections.

“If (Hamas) is attacking us directly on the air of television, you know that this means that they don’t want us here”, he said.

Also in Ashdod, Netanyahu’s rival in the election was former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman taking part in an election rally for his nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, when sirens sounded.

“What has happened today proves that Netanyahu’s policy of surrendering to terrorism is bankrupt”, Lieberman said in a statement on Facebook.

Lieberman resigned from his post in November 2018 in protest at Netanyahu’s ceasefire agreement in Gaza, which the then minister described as a “surrender to terrorism”.