Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Rocket attack on southern Israel

Israeli police at scene of rocket attack - photo 16 November
Sderot is frequently targeted by Palestinian militants

Palestinian militants have fired a barrage of rockets at southern Israel, wounding two people, two days before a six-month ceasefire was due to expire.

Israel responded with an airstrike targeting a rocket launcher in northern Gaza. No injuries were reported.

Correspondents say the rocket attacks will increase concern of a flare-up of violence at the end of the week.

Israel says it wants to extend the truce but Islamists Hamas, who are in control of Gaza, says this is unlikely.

A truce between the two sides had so far largely held since it was declared on 19 June, although according to the Israeli military dozens of rockets and missiles have been fired in the past four-and-a-half months.

The Israeli army said militants fired at least 15 rockets at the town of Sderot on Wednesday, one of which hit a car park outside a supermarket. Two people suffered shrapnel wounds.

Militant group Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attack, in retaliation for the killing of one of its members by Israeli forces in the West Bank on Monday.

Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took control there in June 2007.

Israel said the blockade, under which it has allowed little more than basic humanitarian aid into Gaza, was needed to isolate Hamas and stop it and other militants from firing rockets.

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