Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip fired two rockets and a mortar shell at communities in southern Israel on Tuesday, the first overt breaches of a tenuous ceasefire that went into effect last Thursday.
In one of the attacks, a rocket landed in the backyard of a home in the battered southern Israel town of Sderot, damaging the house but causing no injuries.
The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed credit for all three attacks, calling them justified responses to a predawn Israeli raid that left two of the group's operatives in Samaria dead. Israeli military officials said that one of the eliminated terrorists was planning to perpetrate an attack against Israeli civilians in the near future.
Earlier this week, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups unilaterally extended the Gaza truce to Judea and Samaria, and announced that they wound henceforth view any Israeli anti-terror military operations in those areas as a violation of the ceasefire deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seemed to ignore the early morning mortar attack as he headed to Egypt to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but later took a few moments to briefly verbally condemn the renewed rocket fire.
Just prior to his meeting with Mubarak in the Sinai resort of Sharm el Sheikh, Arab media quoted Olmert as warning that Israel would soon consider the Gaza truce null and void if Hamas did not stop smuggling explosives and weapons into Gaza for use in future violence against Israel. On Monday, senior Israeli intelligence officials told the government that while violence emanating from Gaza had ceased, the importing of arms had increased, as had advanced military training of Hamas forces.
Olmert also raised the issue of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during his talks with Mubarak. Shalit's release was originally said to be a condition of Israel accepting the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. When the ceasefire went into effect and Shalit was not freed, his parents launched a legal effort to force the government to halt implementation of the truce deal.
But on Monday Israel's Supreme Court, while initially appearing to side with the Shalit family, ruled that it could not interfere in real-time political and security decisions. By Monday evening Israel had moved on to the next phase of the truce by ending its limited economic blockade of Gaza.