Terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza broke several days of quiet on Tuesday afternoon and attacked the Ashkelon Coastal area with a Kassam rocket, putting southern Israel back on alert. No one was injured and no damage was reported.
The explosion was the first since last week, when Islamic Jihad terrorists said that Hamas’s security forces arrested its members for launching rockets. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks against Israel from the Gaza region, which it forcibly took over nearly two years ago in a militia war with the rival Fatah faction.
Hamas has been interested in maintaining quiet to prevent negative public relations during negotiations for freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the Olmert government's freeing hundreds of terrorists, including several murderers serving multiple life sentences in prison.
Hamas also is negotiating a long-term ceasefire with Israel through Egyptian mediators. Previous agreements have broken down within hours.
The last ceasefire was declared unilaterally by Israel, and then by Hamas, at the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in mid-January. Israel conditioned the truce on a halt to arms smuggling but said the IDF could withdraw from Gaza because rocket attacks had all but ended.
More than 150 rockets and mortar shells have been fired on Israel, as far north as Ashkelon, since the unilateral truce began.
Operation Cast Lead was carried out after Hamas and allied terrorists continued to break a June 2008 ceasefire, escalating attacks with deadly explosions as far north as Yavneh, halfway between Gaza and Tel Aviv, and as far east as Be'er Sheva.
Israel retaliated to each rocket attack with target strikes on smuggling tunnels and terrorists until the most recent rocket attack last week, when the IDF did not respond. Nor has Israel retaliated for Tuesday afternoon’s strike.