Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a stonecutting facility near a Hamas outpost and a smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip late Wednesday night, shortly after militants fired a rocket at Israel, witnesses and the Islamic movement Hamas said. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the attack, saying it had targeted a weapons production site, in response to the rocket fire at Israel.
Earlier, the security "Kitchenette," namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided Wednesday night that Israel must retaliate on the rocket fire at the western Negev.
Wednesday evening saw a rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in Eshkol Regional Council limits. No injuries or damage were reported.
Livni told Ynet that "the era in which we would ignore (such attacks) has ended. We'll respond to any rocket launching."
The terror groups' provocation has the defense establishment gearing to apply a response scenario, which will correspond with whatever operational opportunities present themselves. A government directive to the effect was given after a series of consultations.
"Israel will respond to rocket fire, even if the US special envoy to the Mideast happens to be in Jerusalem," a senior diplomatic source said.
Israel's response, said a Jerusalem source, will have nothing to do with envoy George Mitchell's visit, a fact made clear by both Olmert and Livni in their meetings with him. "Mitchell asked to preserve the ceasefire and refrain from any further escalation, but our stand in clear.
"Israel will take whatever steps necessary. Any ceasefire violations, be it terror attacks, Qassam fire or arms smuggling, will meet a harsh response."
'Israel not the one violating truce'
Olmert, Barak and Livni met for a security briefing just hours prior to the rocket fire on the western Negev. Barak was asked to compile a detailed record of all ceasefire violations, as well as the IDF's response to each.
At the advice of senior security officials, the three agreed that any violation must be met with an austere response, set according to Israel's own scale.
The Israeli Air Force's strike on the Rafah tunnels, which took place overnight, said the source, was a partial response to the ongoing attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza via the Egyptian border with the Strip. Israel's response to the attack, which left one soldier dead and three injured, is pending.
"Israel has no intention of forfeiting its right to self defense when continuously provoked by Gaza (groups), that is the equation which was set after Operation Cast Lead and it will be applied."
A defense establishment source, however, underlined the fact that a retaliation would not mean another full scale offensive. "Each violation will be met on a case by case basis and the less said the better. The IDF is prepared to carry out the government's orders.
"A situation where rocket fire and placing explosives are not met with a response will not prevail for long. Mitchell may have asked to try and hold the ceasefire, but Israel is not the one violating it," added a source in Jerusalem. "As said when we declared the armistice – we will do what needs to be done."
Reuters contributed to this report