Israel warned of a harsh response on Thursday afternoon after a Thai greenhouse worker was killed when a Kassam rocket fired by Gaza terrorists exploded in the Netiv Ha’asara area.
The man, in his 30s, was evacuated to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital, where doctors were forced to pronounce him dead.
A small Islamist faction calling itself Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters in Gaza, the al-Qaida-inspired faction said the attack was a response to Israel's "Judaization" of Islamic holy places in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank.
A second group, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, also later claimed responsibility.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom warned that the attack would lead to a strong reaction, and said that Hamas was ultimately responsible.
“It is severe escalation,” said Shalom in remarks broadcast on Army Radio. “Israel will not return to the situation of before Operation Cast Lead. The response will be particularly fierce...I hope Hamas will learn a lesson.”
The attack came on the same day as a visit to Gaza by Europe's top diplomat, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who had just crossed into the territory when the rocket was fired.
"I condemn any kind of violence. We have got to find a peaceful solution to the issues and problems," she said. She was the most senior international official to visit Gaza in more than a year.
Ashton did not meet with Hamas officials.
"What we have been saying to the Israelis for a long time is that we need to allow aid into this region, to be able to support the economy to grow for people to have the things they are clearly lacking," she told reporters.
"What we have been saying to the Israelis for a long time is that we
need to allow aid into this region, to be able to support the economy
to grow for people to have the things they are clearly lacking," she
The British Government has also strongly condemned the rocket attack.
Foreign Office Minister of State Ivan Lewis said the attack should be condemned by all those who are committed to peace.
“The UK condemns the rocket attack carried out by militants in Gaza,” Lewis said. “All terrorist attacks directed against Israel are unacceptable and should be condemned by all those who are committed to peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Lewis called for both sides to resume negotiations and said that the UK is actively supporting US efforts to achieve this.
“It is now more urgent than ever before that we see the resumption of meaningful negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to create a two state solution.
“We are actively engaged in supporting the efforts of the US to create the conditions for negotiations to begin as soon as possible,” Lewis said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attack.
such acts of terror and violence against civilians are totally
unacceptable and contrary to international law," he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, two Kassam rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, landing not far from Sderot.
people suffered from shock as a result of the blast, one of them a
girl. They were treated by an MDA team and evacuated to a shock