Response to peace talks? Southern Israel communities have been under fire since Wednesday morning, as Gaza terrorists have stepped up their rocket and mortar attacks at Negev residents.
Security forces were searching Wednesday morning for a Qassam rocket that apparently exploded Tuesday night in Ashkelon's southern industrial zone, the IDF announced.
It was the first time in over a month that Gaza's terrorists fired at the city.
By midday Wednesday, the Air Force responded by bombing the Gaza Strip; at least one person was killed and two others were wounded in a southern Gaza strike near Rafah, Palestinian sources said.
The IDF reportedly targeted Palestinian smuggling tunnels, killing a Palestinian who worked in the tunnel, AP reported. He was later identified as 21-year-old Wajdi al-Qadi from Rafah.
Early Wednesday morning, two mortar shells exploded in Eshkol Regional Council. Another blast was heard in the same area around noon, believed to be the result of another mortar shell. Later, three more mortar shells exploded in the Negev.
No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.
Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said he and his associates have been preparing for an escalation in the south as result of the recently launched peace talks.
"There hasn't been anything like this since operation Cast Lead," he said. "But we are prepared, as the peace talks continue to progress. If this is the price of peace, it's tolerable."
However, Yellin noted that 900 Israelis were killed after the Oslo Accords. "The question is how much Israel is willing to pay. On our part, we are not willing to stop our activity, the construction, and our agricultural work just because peace is being discussed," he added.
A secretary for one of the Negev communities also said the violence had been expected.
"Every time we have peace talks, rockets and mortars rain down on us from above, but we try to maintain our daily routine," he said. "As the talks proceed it will only get worse, but it all depends on the other side. We can only hope for calm."
The rocket and mortar attacks are the latest developments in escalating Palestinian violence since direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority began.
The soldiers remained uninjured and returned fire towards the source. The Palestinians later reported one dead and four wounded. The attackers belonged to a group identified with al-Qaeda.
Ali Waked contributed to the story
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