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First rocket fired from Gaza into Israel since November cease-fire

From Sara Sidner, CNN
updated 10:53 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
Israeli bomb technicians inspect the remains of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip and near Ashkelon on Tuesday.
Israeli bomb technicians inspect the remains of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip and near Ashkelon on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The IDF sets strictures on two crossings
  • Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Gaza militant group, claims responsibility for the attack
  • Militants warned of retaliation if a prisoner died in Israeli custody
  • Gaza militants have regularly launched rocket attacks

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Days after the death of a Palestinian in an Israeli prison, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel on Tuesday, the first such attack since a cease-fire took hold in November.

Israeli police said they did not receive any reports of injuries from the rocket.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Gaza militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack, which damaged a road outside the town of Ashkelon, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Gaza. The brigades made the claim in an e-mail to CNN.

Fury in West Bank over prisoner death
Israel-Hamas cease-fire holding
Palestinians mourn during the funeral Arafat Jaradat on February 25, 2013 in the village of Saair in the West Bank. Palestinians mourn during the funeral Arafat Jaradat on February 25, 2013 in the village of Saair in the West Bank.
Blame and anger over prisoner's death
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Blame and anger over prisoner\'s death Blame and anger over prisoner's death

Last week, militants in Gaza warned there would be retaliation if a prisoner died or was harmed while in Israeli custody. Arafat Jaradat, 30, died Saturday, inciting Palestinian officials to once again decry Israeli prison conditions.

"The prisoner martyr Jaradat went to prison to come back a corpse, but we are determined to find out how it was done and who did it," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday, according to the state news agency WAFA. "We know how we will act, and we will not let them (Israelis) drag us to their square, and they should bear the responsibility."

The rocket fire prompted the Israel Defense Forces to close the Kerem Shalom Crossing near the Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian borders. The Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel will be open only for medical cases, humanitarian aid or exceptional cases.

The government said it will send out a directive when it opens the crossings to full activity.

Israel seized Gaza during the 1967 war, and withdrew settlers from there in 2005. In the ensuing years, militants in Gaza have regularly launched rocket attacks into southern Israel.

In November, Israel launched what it called the Pillar of Defense operation, a series of military strikes on Gaza designed to stop the constant rocket fire.

READ: Rockets, airstrikes reignite Mideast conflict

Eight days of round-the-clock warfare followed between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls Gaza.

As Israel targeted Hamas military commanders and weaponry, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel, battering the southern region and reaching Israel's two major cities -- Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

READ: Calm elusive as rockets rain in Gaza, Israel

Israel called up reservists and massed its forces on the Gaza border, threatening a ground invasion. Many feared a repeat of Israel's Operation Cast Lead offensive against Palestinian militants in late 2008, an operation that led to a bloody three-week war.

The fighting in November took its toll: More than 160 Palestinians, many of whom were civilians, were killed. Six Israelis died, including civilians and soldiers. Hundreds were wounded.

The fighting ended after Egypt and the United States helped broker the cease-fire that lasted until Tuesday.

READ: Hamas leaders in Egypt for cease-fire talks involving Israel

A Palestinian official sent a warning Sunday to U.S. President Barack Obama, who plans to make his first trip to Israel as president next month.

"If President Obama wants to visit the region peacefully, he should exert pressure on Israel to release the prisoners -- especially the ones who are on hunger strike -- or else he will visit while Palestine is on fire," Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe said.

Israeli officials Sunday called on the Palestinian Authority to calm the territories, where there have been large protests in recent days over the conditions of Palestinian prisoners.

READ: Palestinians protest inmate's death, warn Obama

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