Israel envoy calls on UN to condemn rocket fire on Ashkelon

Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade says missile was launched as revenge for death of Palestinian prisoner

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN called on the Security Council on Tuesday to condemn the firing of a rocket from the Gaza Strip on the coastal city of Ashkelon earlier in the day.

“After only three months of relative quiet, the citizens of Israel awoke again this morning to discover the horrific reality of terrorism from Gaza… The fragile calm that has prevailed over the past three months has been shattered,” said Ron Prosor in a letter.

“This attack is an unacceptable breach of the ceasefire that ended our campaign against Hamas last year. Israel holds Hamas fully responsible for any attack that emanates from areas under its control. No country would sit idle as a terrorist organization played Russian Roulette with the lives of its citizens.”

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for firing the rocket later, saying it was retaliation for Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat’s death in an Israeli prison on Saturday. The terrorist group, associated with Fatah, had published a leaflet on Monday urging a harsh response against Israel for Jaradat’s death.

The rocket hit a road in an industrial area in the south of the city around 7 a.m. There were no injuries, although the road was damaged.

Visiting the south of the country, President Shimon Peres said maintaining cross-border quiet was in the interest of both sides. “We prefer quiet to rocket fire. Quiet will be met with quiet,” said Peres, but a resumption of rocket fire would be met “in the appropriate manner.”

The rocket was an upgraded Fajr-5 missile — or M75 — with a range of 70 kilometers (over 40 miles). In response to the rocket fire, Israel temporarily curtailed operations at two Gaza border crossings.

Residents of the southern city reported hearing two blasts and authorities were checking to see if two missiles were in fact fired at the city. Residents said there were no warning sirens sounded to alert people in the area.

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The rocket was reportedly fired from Rafah in the southern Strip, and was the same type used by Hamas in November in attempts to hit Jerusalem, according to Army Radio.

According to the report, Hamas tightly controls the border city of Rafah, which is home to several smuggling tunnels into Egypt, indicating the rocket fire was done with the Hamas’ knowledge.

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said on Tuesday that he was “deeply troubled” by “resumed indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza.”

The resuming fire from the Strip is “totally unacceptable,” he said in a press release.

“Today’s developments only underscore the importance of ongoing Egyptian efforts to solidify the truce brokered last November, which UNSCO will continue to support.”

An official said Ashkelon schools would be open in the city as normal.

“We hope this was a one-time event,” he told Israel Radio. “We are always preparing.”

Rocket fire out of Gaza halted after Israel and Hamas agreed to end hostilities following the Operation Pillar of Defense mini-war in November.

The rocket fire represents the opening up of a second front between Israel and the Palestinians, after the West Bank heated up over the past several days over the death of Jaradat.

Troops have clashed with rock-throwing Palestinians in a number of areas around the West Bank and many Palestinians have called for revenge. The Palestinian Authority claimed Sunday that Israel tortured Jaradat to death. Israel said he died of heart failure.

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