Gaza truce recedes as rockets hit Israel

Gaza truce recedes as rockets hit Israel

Jerusalem: Barrages of rockets fired from Gaza hit Israeli towns on Sunday and the Israeli air force responded with a missile strike as violence surged following the official expiry date of a shaky truce.

Israeli rescue services said one rocket scored a direct hit on a house in the town of Sderot. No one was injured in that attack, but the Israeli military said a worker at a farming community near Gaza was lightly wounded by shrapnel in a separate rocket hit.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad took responsibility for Sunday’s rocket fire.

An Israeli aircraft launched a missile at a rocket launcher that had been preparing to fire in northern Gaza, the military said. Militants typically prepare rockets for launch and then fire them from cover a safe distance away. There were no reports of casualties in the strike.

A truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers expired on Friday, six months after it began. The truce had frayed since early November, and rocket fire at Israeli towns has been increasing steadily in recent days.

On Saturday, militants fired more than 30 rockets and mortar shells into Israel, and the Israeli air force killed one militant who was launching rockets.

Israel has said it wants to preserve the truce and will not take military action if the militants hold their fire, but has threatened to carry out a broad military operation in Gaza if the barrages persist.

“The scenarios are clear, the plans are clear, the determination is clear, and so are the ramifications of each of the steps. A responsible government is not happy to go to war, but does not evade it," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at his Cabinet’s weekly meeting.

Israel has largely kept the crossings into Gaza closed in response to the rocket fire, a move that has caused shortages of fuel and basic goods in the territory of 1.4 million Palestinians.