Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza have struck two Israeli towns, injuring one resident. The militant group Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attacks on Beersheeba and Ashdod, in revenge for what it called “Zionist massacres” against its people.
Colonel Eitan Yitzhak of the Israeli army said one person was hit by shrapnel and several were suffering from shock.
“We are in a period of escalation,” he said. “We consider this attack here as yet another attempt to disrupt everyday life in Israel,” he said.
Israeli helicopters responded to the rocket attacks by firing missiles at targets in Gaza. Warplanes are also reported to have launched air strikes.
The tense situation has been described by Israel’s vice premier Silvan Shalom as being similar to the run-up to Israel’s war in Gaza two years ago.
There were strong feelings as the funerals were held in Gaza for three members of Islamic Jihad killed by Israeli strikes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who said earlier he regretted Tuesday’s killing of Palestinian civilians – now took a tougher line. Israel, he said, was determined to strike at the terrorists and stop their attacks.
The past ten days have seen growing tension, ever since Israel responded to the stabbing to death of a Jewish family by vowing to build more settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinian analysts have linked the growing violence to moves to heal the rift between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas.
There are plenty who oppose the Palestinian President’s offer to meet the Islamist group in its feifdom of Gaza.
There were scuffles at a recent rally in Gaza calling for unity.
Israel and elements within Hamas have their own reasons for fearing Palestinian reconciliation – which some say could explain the recent escalation in violence.