From The Telegraph U.K.
Israel targeted by Gaza rockets as Ashton visits
Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into a kibbutz in southern Israel, killing a Thai worker, while EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was on an hours-long visit to the area.
Published: 1:08PM GMT 18 Mar 2010
The rocket was launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing a Thai agricultural worker, while Baroness Ashton was visiting the Hamas-controlled enclave.
It was the first strike from the territory to cause any fatalities since the end in January 2009 of Israel’s Gaza war.
An hour before the attack, the EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton crossed into the Gaza Strip to tour UN facilities and see how the international funding was being used.
At a Gaza news conference after the attack, Baroness Ashton said: “I condemn any kind of violence, we have got to find a peaceful solution to the issues and problems.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his condemnation, saying in a statement: “All such acts of terror and violence against civilians are totally unacceptable and contrary to international law.”
An unknown Gaza group, Ansar al-Sunna, claimed responsibility for the attack – launched a day before the international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators was to meet in Moscow to discuss ways to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Similar strikes since the Gaza war have been met by Israeli air raids against militants or suspected weapons-producing facilities, but the death of the Thai worker, in Netiv Ha’asara, an agricultural community, may harden Israel’s response.
“This is a crossing of the red line, which Israel cannot accept.
“The Israeli response will be appropriate. It will be strong,” Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said.
The Gazan group responsible for the attack, Ansar al-Sunna said in a statement: “The Jihadist mission came in response to the Zionist assaults against the Ibrahimi and al-Aqsa mosques and the continued Zionist aggression against our people in Jerusalem.”
It appeared to be referring to Israel’s national heritage plan to renovate holy sites, including the West Bank town of Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs that is revered by Muslims and Jews, and the rededication this week of an 18th-century synagogue in Jerusalem, some 400 yards from al-Aqsa.
In a statement on the rocket attack, Hamas steered clear of comments that could be seen by Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip as disapproving of a strike against its enemy, even while the strike strained an informal truce.
“The government of the Zionist enemy, which has launched a war against the Palestinian people and against holy sites and al-Aqsa mosque, bears the responsibility for all the escalation,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
At Hamas’s urging, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem mounted stone-throwing protests this week after Israel reconsecrated the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have been carrying out sporadic rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war, usually without causing any casualties.
The number of such strikes has dropped dramatically since the Israeli campaign ended.