Gaza rocket strike raises fears of escalating violence in Israel
Quote:The first death caused by a missile from the Hamas-controlled area since the end of Israel's military offensive came an hour after Baroness Ashton, the European Union high representative, arrived in the territory.
Two Islamist groups with suspected ties to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for launching the homemade Qassam rocket, which struck a greenhouse north of Gaza, killing a 30-year-old migrant worker from Thailand.
Silvan Shalom, Israel's deputy foreign minister, announced that the strike had "crossed a red line".
"The Israeli response will be appropriate," he said. "It will be strong."
Israel warned Hamas would pay the consequence of the rocket strike, even though the group was not thought to be directly responsible for yesterday's launch.
"Regardless of which group claims responsibility for the Qassam fire, Israel holds Hamas accountable for anything that happens on the ground because it rules Gaza," Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister said.
More than 100 rockets have been fired by Islamist groups in Gaza since Israel's offensive, known as Operation Cast lead, was concluded in January, 2009.
Israel has often responded with air strikes against Hamas military installations, but officials predicted that the latest attack would provoke a more intensive retaliation against multiple targets over a period of between 24 and 48 hours.
The rocket attack raised fears an Israeli decision to build new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem – a move condemned by the United States – could provoke escalating violence in the Holy Land.
Ansar al-Sunna, one of the two groups that claimed responsibility for the attack, said its actions were partly prompted by the construction plan, which was announced during a visit to Jerusalem last week by Joe Biden, the US vice-president.
Baroness Ashton, who was visiting UN facilities in Gaza, was quick to condemn the attack, and outrage was also expressed in Britain and elsewhere.
However, there was no sign of a letup in US pressure on Mr Netanyahu, who is yet to respond to a demand from Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that he scrap plans to build 1,600 new homes in an East Jerusalem settlement.
Israel announced it would expand the Ramat Shlomo settlement while Mr Biden was in the country in a bid to revive peace talks with the Palestinians, a move seen in Washington as a deliberate attempt to humiliate the Obama administration.
Intensifying the pressure on his government, Mr Netanyahu has been told that no senior US official will meet him when he travels to Washington next week unless he responds to Mrs Clinton's demands, according to a diplomatic source.
Mr Netanyahu is due to address a conference hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Commitee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the United States.
According to reports in the Israeli media, Mr Netanyahu may abandon his visit unless he is sure he can avoid an embarrassing snub or is prepared to make a response to Mrs Clinton's demands that the Obama administration deems acceptable.
Mr Obama sought to soften the ferocity of the rhetoric his administration has used against Israel in recent days yesterday when he stressed America's "special bond" with the Israeli people.
But he also increased the pressure on Mr Netanyahu by blaming the crisis on Eli Yishai, Israel's minister of internal affairs and the leader of a hardline party in the prime minister's right wing coalition. Some observers say the president was sending Mr Netanyahu a coded message instructing him to sack Mr Yishai, known as a radical, in exchange for returning relations to normal.
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