An Israeli woman died of wounds sustained Wednesday morning in a Palestinian rocket attack on the southern town of Sderot, a hospital official said.
The woman was one of two civilians critically injured when the rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed on a street in Sderot, said Leah Malul, a spokeswoman for Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon. Several other passersby were slightly wounded by shrapnel in the attack on Sderot, a frequent target of Palestinian rocket fire.
Militants affiliated with the Palestinians' ruling Hamas group and Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for the attack. They said the rocket fire was meant to avenge the deaths of 18 civilians killed last week in an unintended Israeli shelling of an apartment compound in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
That shelling came after Israeli troops wound up a weeklong incursion in Beit Hanoun intended to curb Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the town, which the Israeli army said was a rocket-launching stronghold. But rocket attacks continued from other spots in Gaza during the incursion, and resumed from Beit Hanoun itself immediately after the troops pulled out.
David Baker, an official in the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Israel's battle against rocket launchers clearly had not ended, reports AP.
"The continued Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot and surrounding communities inside Israel are clear evidence that Israel cannot let up in its defense of its citizens and must root out these rocket launchers as well as those who perpetrate these attacks," Baker said.
Eight other Israelis have been killed in previous rocket attacks inside Israel in recent years. The last fatality was a woman killed in an agricultural community along the border with Gaza in July 2005.