Text size

Security consultations conducted yesterday by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak indicate that Israel will respond to a Qassam rocket attack that Israel described as a breach of the cease-fire to which Israel and Hamas agreed last week.

The rocket fire constitutes a "blatant violation of the cease-fire on the part of Palestinian groups in the Strip," Olmert said yesterday, after being informed of the attack upon his return from Egypt, where he met with President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the cease-fire.

Olmert and Barak "agreed on methods of response," the Prime Minister's Bureau said. "We will not provide further details."

Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets on southern Israel, in the first rocket attack since the deal was reached.

Senior security sources told Haaretz that Israel would not be able to ignore the attack.

Israel is expected to respond to the rocket fire either by carrying out a pinpoint attack targeting Islamic Jihad, or by reducing the supply of goods entering the Gaza Strip. Since the cease-fire went into effect, Israel has increased the amount of goods entering the Strip by about 30 percent, as it committed to do in talks with Egypt. Barring any further deterioration in the security situation, Israel is slated to weigh how to further increase the amount of goods entering Gaza.

Gaza-area residents plan to hold a demonstration outside the Karni and Sufa crossings this morning to protest the transfer of goods into Gaza in the wake of the rocket fire.

Two women went into shock when two of the rockets hit Sderot, a few hours after Palestinian militants fired mortar shells at the Karni crossing around midnight Monday. The third rocket hit an open area in the Negev.

Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the rocket attack, which it said came in response to the death of a senior operative during an Israel Defense Forces raid in Nablus early yesterday. A Hamas operative who worked with the wanted Jihad man was also killed in the raid. The Israel Defense Forces said troops shot both men to death, and that the Jihad man was armed with a rifle. In addition, four explosive devices and a large quantity of ammunition were found next to the gunmen.

Islamic Jihad had told Hamas before the cease-fire went into effect that it would honor the agreement, a senior political source said yesterday.

The mortar shells were fired by Hamas, although the group did not publicly take responsibility for the attack, which caused no injuries.

Israeli officials said the mortar fire appears to be a Hamas reaction to the wounding of a Palestinian civilian in northern Gaza on Monday, in a bid to show that Hamas will not stand by as Israel harms Palestinian civilians. The civilian, 68, appears to have been hurt by an errant IDF bullet.