News / Middle East

Gaza Militants Fire Rocket at Israel, Killing Thai Worker

Robert Berger

Tensions are rising along Israel's border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip after a deadly rocket attack.

A Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza crashed into an Israeli farming community. A worker from Thailand was killed - the first victim of such an attack since Israel's massive three-week assault on Gaza a year ago.

A Palestinian group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility. But Israel is holding the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza responsible and has promised retaliation. Since the Gaza War, Israel has launched air strikes on Gaza smuggling tunnels in response to cross-border attacks.

The latest rocket attack occurred as European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was visiting Gaza. Earlier, she met with Israeli President Shimon Peres here in Jerusalem.

"I come to support the peace process and to insure that the European Union plays its part in support of that process," she said.

But the peace process suffered a setback last week, when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The announcement led to a major crisis in Israel's relations with Washington because it was made during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The United States sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace and backs Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state; and it has demanded that the new settlement project be canceled.

President Peres says the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are part of the capital of the State of Israel.  

"For 40 years, there was a certain pattern [in] which we build in suburbs which are basically Jewish, and we didn't build in suburbs which are basically Arabs," he said. "That was done by all governments."  

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not be the first Israeli leader to change that. So Mr. Netanyahu could be in for a difficult visit to Washington next week.

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