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Palestinian Rocket Kills Israeli Woman


Israeli officials say they will retaliate for a Palestinian rocket attack that killed an Israeli woman and severely wounded at least two other people.

Witnesses say several rockets launched from the Gaza Strip landed in and around the town of Sderot, killing an Israeli woman and severely wounding a bodyguard for Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot near the Gaza border.

A statement issued by Peretz said those responsible for the continuing rocket attacks against southern Israel will pay a heavy price for the attacks.

It was the first fatality caused by a Qassam rocket in Israel since last year. Israeli authorities say more than 900 of the homemade missiles have been fired at southern Israel this year.

After withdrawing from the Gaza Strip last year, Israel's military re-entered the territory in June - to try to stop the rocket attacks and search for an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants. Last week, 19 Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces mistakenly shelled an apartment compound in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, where many of the rockets are launched.

A former director of Tel Aviv University's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies, Yossi Alpher, edits the Web site Bitterlemons.com, which promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Alpher says Israel will now likely step up its military presence in Gaza, but that is unlikely solve the problem of Palestinian militants firing rockets at southern Israel.

"This will not stop the occasional Qassam rocket from falling on Sderot unfortunately, and as we saw in Beit Hanoun even a week's activity by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) there, which moved in with a heavy presence, they were not sufficient to stop that activity," Alpher said. "So barring the unlikely possibility of a genuine political process between Israelis and Palestinians that involves and commits Hamas, and I do not think this is likely in the near term, I do not see any major departure from the current very sad and tragic pattern of events.

Several Palestinian groups, including the armed wing of Hamas have claimed responsibility for the strike on Sderot.

The attack occurred as members of the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah continued talks in Gaza aimed at creating a unity government. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the issue.

Also meeting in Cairo were representatives of the Middle East Quartet, made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Egyptian officials have emerged as key participants in negotiating a new Palestinian government, which could be formed as part of a broader agreement involving a prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinians and possibly an agreement to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets at southern Israel.

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