Palestinian forces operating out of the Gaza Strip have fired 900 locally produced rockets and Iranian-supplied missiles at towns and villages in southern Israel during the first four months of 2008 alone.
That according to statistics compiled and presented at a security cabinet meeting on Wednesday by Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter.
Dichter noted that a total of 1,100 rockets were fired from Gaza during all of 2007, meaning that Israel was now experiencing a major escalation in terrorism emanating from the Hamas-ruled territory.
Dichter warned that in light of the growing violence, Israel should not be encouraging Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The talks, said Dichter, lend legitimacy to Hamas as a ruling authority, when it should be blacklisted as a terrorist organization and militarily defeated.
Egyptian officials on Wednesday said that Hamas and the other Palestinian groups that operate under its auspices in Gaza have agreed to a proposed ceasefire with Israel, but only so long as it allows them to regain freedom of movement in order to regroup and rearm for future violence.
Israel rejected the outlines of the Egyptian truce deal, explaining that with the current goal being to bolster Ramallah-based Fatah and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate leader of the Palestinians, making deals with a rival Palestinian group would be counterproductive.
Meanwhile, Palestinian forces in Gaza continued to fire rockets at southern Israel on Wednesday. At least 13 rockets slammed into the western Negev region, one of them landing only a few feet from a schoolhouse where hundreds of Israeli students were taking semester exams. Miraculously, no injuries were reported.
In other violence, Palestinian Arabs in Samaria stoned Israeli motorists traveling near the Palestinian Authority-controlled town of Kalkilya. No injuries were reported, but a number of vehicles were damaged.