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JERUSALEM: Gaza militants yesterday fired a rocket into Israel for the first time in three months, rattling a cross-border truce that has held since Israel’s military offensive against the Hamas-run territory.
Israel closed Gaza’s main cargo crossing until further notice, an apparent warning to Gaza’s Hamas rulers to clamp down on rocket squads.
“Quiet will be met with quiet, missiles will be met with a response,” said Israeli President Shimon Peres, adding that he believes both sides “have a deep interest in lowering the flames.”
Militants claiming affiliation with the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement took responsibility.
They said in an email to journalists that they fired the rocket to avenge the death of a Palestinian in Israeli custody. It was impossible to independently verify the claim of responsibility.
The detainee, Arafat Jaradat, 30, died over the weekend after interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet security services. Palestinian officials, citing an autopsy, said the detainee was tortured, while Israel says more tests are needed to determine the cause of death.
Jaradat’s death sparked protests in the West Bank, including near the town of Bethlehem on Monday.
Two Palestinian teens, aged 13 and 16, were wounded in a confrontation with Israeli soldiers. The older boy was transferred to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital after being shot in the head and was in critical condition yesterday, hooked up to a respirator, officials said.
The rocket from Gaza landed south of the Israeli city of Ashkelon early yesterday, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The rocket caused damage to a road but no injuries, he said. It was the first rocket fired from Gaza since Israel’s military offensive against rocket squads in the coastal strip last November. The Hamas militant group has ruled Gaza since ousting forces loyal to Abbas in 2007.
Over the past decade, Gaza militants have fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells at Israel, and Israel has responded with military strikes. In between periods of cross-border violence, informal cease-fires have
Hamas government spokesman Ehab Ghussein denied a rocket was fired, indicating Hamas was trying to distance itself from the incident. AP