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Middle East

Israel says rocket fired from Gaza

Al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades claims responsibility for first rocket strike from Palestinian territory since November truce.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2013 12:59
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has exploded in southern Israel, in the first such attack since a ceasefire last November, Israeli police say.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket strike. No casualties were reported.
The group described the attack as a "preliminary response" to the death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian and member of Al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades who died in Israeli custody last weekend.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said remains of the rocket were found south of the city of Ashkelon, in southern Israel, on Tuesday. "The rocket fell early in the morning near Ashkelon and did some damage to a road, without hurting anyone," Rosenfeld said.

There was no military response from Israel hours after the rocket strike. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said it was investigating.

It was the first such projectile from the Palestinian territory to hit Israel since Israel-Gaza hostilities last November and comes after a series of protests over Jaradat's death.

Death investigation

The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the death of the 30-year-old Jaradat, a father of two, whose funeral was attended by thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank on Monday.
UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry made the call for an investigation in a statement on Monday after talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Jaradat's death. Serry noted that Israeli and Palestinian experts had examined the body.

"The United Nations expects the autopsy to be followed by an independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr Jaradat's death, the results of which should be made public as soon as possible," the envoy said.

Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa said preliminary results from his autopsy showed Jaradat had died "as a result of torture".
The rocket fire came one day after Israeli troops injured two Palestinian teenagers near a holy site close to Bethlehem, during one of the many demonstrations Palestinians have staged in the West Bank recently in support of prisoners on lengthy hunger strikes in Israeli jails.

The clashes come weeks before US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel and the West Bank, his first presidential visit to the region.

US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the US has asked Israeli and Palestinian officials to exercise "maximum restraint" at this time of high tension in the West Bank.

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