A rocket fired from Gaza exploded in Israel on Tuesday, the first such attack in three months. The rocket hit a road near the southern city of Ashkelon. The rocket was the first to hit Israel since a November truce brokered by Egypt that ended eight days of cross-border air strikes and missile attacks. Israel responded to this attack by closing the Kerem Shalom border crossing through which produce and other goods are moved into the Gaza Strip, but it took no immediate military action.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank-based Fatah movement, called the rocket a "first response" to the death of a Palestinian prisoner’s death, one week after his arrest for throwing stones at Israeli vehicles. Palestinian officials said he had died after being tortured in prison. But Israel said an autopsy carried out in the presence of a Palestinian coroner was inconclusive.
In addition to the fire from Gaza, a surge of unrest in the occupied West Bank has raised fears in Israel of a new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising. Abbas accused Israel of inciting the unrest but urged calm. On Monday, thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank turned out for the funeral of the prisoner. In confrontations after the funeral, Palestinian youths were throwing homemade hand grenades at a Jewish holy site called Rachel’s Tomb, forcing Israeli police to respond. As a result, Israeli police shot and wounded five Palestinian youths in Bethlehem and outside a West Bank prison, leaving a 15-year-old boy with a critical head injury, Israeli and Palestinian medics said.
The United Nations coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, called Tuesday's rocket fire "totally unacceptable" and urged an investigation into the prisoner’s death.