A leading Palestinian terrorist and three of his accomplices were killed during a brief Israeli raid into Bethlehem on Wednesday, an event that was used by Gaza-based terrorists to justify a resumption of rocket attacks on civilian communities in southern Israel.
On Wednesday evening, an elite Border Police counterterrorism unit armed with intelligence regarding the whereabouts of a top Islamic Jihad terrorist entered Bethlehem and engaged their target.
Mahmoud Shehada, the Islamic Jihad leader for the Bethlehem region and a terrorist wanted by Israel for over eight years, was killed during the exchange of fire. Three other terrorists, including one who doubled as a member of the Bethlehem City Council, were also killed.
Earlier in the day, Israeli forces killed another Islamic Jihad field commander during an arrest operation in the Samarian town of Tulkarm.
Islamic Jihad forces based in the Gaza Strip proceeded to fire some 15 rockets and mortar shells at communities in southern Israel overnight in response to the blow against their "West Bank" leadership.
The attacks, mostly directed at the battered southern Israel town of Sderot, shattered more than four days of relative calm in and around Gaza that both Israeli and Hamas officials admitted was the result of an official truce.
Israeli officials on Thursday said that Hamas would be held directly responsible for the renewed Gaza rocket fire, since other groups based in the area need the approval of the Hamas government to attack Israel.