The attack came one day after two Qassam rockets were fired from the Strip into Israel. The militant Fatah offshoot Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack and demanded that the cease fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which currently includes only the Gaza Strip, be extended to include the West Bank as well.
At a high-level security meeting late Thursday, Israel decided to keep the border crossings into the Gaza Strip closed on Friday because of the latest rocket attack defense officials said. They added that a limited amount of fuel would be transferred into the Strip despite the closure.
Since the cease fire went into effect last Thursday, instead of retaliating for rocket attacks with airstrikes at Palestinian rocket squads, Israel closed the border crossings, where vital supplies are shipped into Gaza - restoring a blockade that has caused severe shortages.
The move hits at the main interest of Hamas - ending the blockade and easing the hardships facing the people under its control. Hamas officials charged that by restoring the blockade, Israel is violating the truce. Underlining the high level of distrust, Palestinians formed a committee to track Israeli violations.
At a meeting Wednesday, Israeli defense officials discussed how to proceed once the crossings are reopened. According to the same officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings are closed, Israel might reset the truce clock each time it closes the crossings in response to a Palestinian violation.
Israel had significantly increased the amount of supplies flowing into Gaza on Sunday, in accordance with the truce agreement, and was ready for another increase next Sunday. But a barrage of four Qassam rockets, claimed by Islamic Jihad, stopped the process. Now Israel is considering counting three days from each reopening of the crossings before it reinstates the original increase.
During a visit to Prague, Czech Republic, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Israel should reopen the crossings to preserve the truce.
"[The reopening is] important because the closure... of Gaza is actually producing a situation where you have 1.5 million of our people who live there with a sense of not much to lose," Fayyad said. "That is a situation that's got to end."
Hamas charged that the re-imposed blockade is a violation. But Hamas official Taher Nunu said that Hamas is committed to the truce. "The [Hamas] government will not allow anyone to violate this agreement," he said.
The rocket attack Thursday came as Israeli envoy Ofer Dekel headed to Egypt to meet with Egyptian officials on the final stage of the truce - a swap of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier Hamas has held captive for two years. Israel has balked at Hamas' demands, saying its list of prisoners includes militants involved in deadly attacks on Israelis.
Hamas also has demanded that Israel allow reopening of Gaza's only border crossing with Egypt in the final phase of the six-month truce deal.
The Rafah crossing has been sealed since the Hamas violent takeover over the Strip last June, confining Gaza's people to the tiny seaside territory. Israel has said it would not allow reopening of Rafah until the soldier is freed.