Ceasefire shattered? Residents of Israel's south were rattled to hear the 'Color Red' rocket alert sirens blare throughout their towns twice on Tuesday afternoon as Palestinian terror groups launched three Qassam rockets from Gaza. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
One of the rockers landed in the backyard of a house in Sderot, damaging the structure. No injuries were reported, though two women were treated for shock. The second rocket landed in an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
Half an hour later, the rocket alert system was activated two more times. The third rocket landed in the Sderot industrial zone. One man was evacuated to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon after feeling pain in his ears.
"This is a blatant and unequivocal violation of the understandings reached as part of the truce (which went into effect last Thursday)," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in response.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that "the prime minister has warned that the ceasefire could be short and fragile. Israel warned against a violation of the understandings, and will weigh its options following the rocket fire."
House hit by rocket (Photo: Ze'ev Trachtman)
Olmert received the news upon his return from Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and thanked him for his efforts in securing the truce.
In Israel some feared that the death of a senior member of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank would prompt a retaliation from Gaza.
An Islamic Jihad source told Ynet that every alleged Israeli violation of the ceasefire, such as the IDF operation in the West Bank town of Nablus, will be met by rocket attacks.
"Next time it will be much more massive," the source said. "We are stopping for today because we want the Palestinian people to enjoy the lull, yet if the Israeli side violates it, Israel's residents won't enjoy the lull either."
The rocket alert system was activated in Sderot and the western Negev at around 3:45 pm. IDF officials reported that the rockets were fired from the Beit Hanoun area and that the army failed to locate the rocket launching cell.
'It was clear truce wouldn't last'
The rocket which hit Sderot landed in the yard of a private house, whose tenants had left the town recently due to the security situation. A house on the other side of the street was also hit by shrapnel.
David Turgeman, whose parents live in the second house, told Ynet, "In the past few days we felt better about the situation, people started going out, but today everything changed.
"My parents' house sustained a direct hit once before, and my house was also hit by a Qassam in the past… All the windows in my parents' house flew out of place. We're lucky they weren’t home. It's a shame we reached this situation once again."
Roy Vazana from Sderot told Ynet, "It was clear that the truce would last more than one week, and this is a fact. It's either us or them. There are no choices here. It's time to launch an operation."
A mortar shell was also fired from Gaza in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday. It landed near an Israeli community but caused no damage or injury. The army did not respond to the shell.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured the region on Tuesday morning to survey the situation following the ceasefire with Hamas. "Calm will be met with calm, and quiet with quiet," he said of the future of the shaky truce.
Ali Waked, Hanan Greenberg and Roi Mandel contributed to this report