"The launching of a rocket at Ashkelon Thursday represents an escalation in the terror activity emanating from the Gaza Strip," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a cabinet meeting Sunday.
"Israel will continue to respond and target those responsible for terror across Gaza. The defense minister has already ordered to increase the IDF's operations in the area, and we have already seen results," Olmert stated.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Sunday that in firing the Russian-made Grad rocket at Ashkelon, the Palestinians "have crossed the line." The security forces plan to respond accordingly, and intensify operations against rocket launching cells.
"As has already been proven in the last weeks, Israel will retaliate with severity to terrorist rocket attacks at innocent civilians," officials said.
At the opening of Sunday's meeting, the prime minister referred to US President George W. Bush's anticipated visit to the region this week, saying: "We will welcome him with open arms. This is a president who has shown great friendship towards Israel throughout his term and who has been a strategic ally in issues related to Israel's economy and foreign relations."
The cabinet is also scheduled to be briefed on the situation in Gaza by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and approve the prime minister's suggestion to allocate $6 million towards a relief program for the Negev residents.