İrem UZUN -TDO- Rockets were fired Wednesday from Gaza at the southern city of Ashkelon during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appearance at an election event in the city. Israeli Prime Minister was rushed off stage and taken into a nearby bomb shelter, according to local reports. Netanyahu returned to the stage shortly afterward and continued his speech. 

The Israeli military confirmed the launch on Wednesday against Ashkelon, which is 12kmfrom the coastal Palestinian enclave, and said the rocket was shot down by an Iron Dome air defense interceptor. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas Islamists and where a smaller armed faction, Islamic Jihad, exchanged fire with Israel during a two-day surge of violence last month. The Israeli air force carried out strikes in Gaza early on Thursday, just hours after rocket fire interrupted. "In response to the rocket fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians earlier tonight, the Israeli Air Force just struck a number of Hamas terror targets in Gaza," Israel Defense Forces said on Twitter.

While Netanyahu is widely expected to retain Likud’s leadership, he faces a tough battle ahead of a March general election in Israel – its third in a year, after he and his centrist rival Benny Gantz failed to secure majorities in two previous ballots. Netanyahu’s standing has been dented by an indictment on corruption charges, which he denies.

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