Agence France Presse (AFP)
June 5, 2008 - 6:22pm

One person was killed on Thursday when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a kibbutz in southern Israel, the army and medics said, in an attack claimed by the armed wing of Hamas.

The home-made Qassam-style rocket hit a factory in the Nir Oz kibbutz which lies east of the southern Gaza Strip, an army spokeswoman said.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas which has ruled Gaza for almost a year, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Medics said three people were also wounded, one of them seriously.

Sixteen people in southern Israel have been killed by rocket or mortar fire from the impoverished territory since the start of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising in September 2000.

Violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups has continued in Gaza despite efforts by Egypt to mediate a truce.

In all, at least 488 people, nearly all Palestinians and the majority of them Gaza militants, have been killed since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in November, according to an AFP count.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that the army would launch a large-scale operation in Gaza if militants did not stop their attacks.

Thursday's strike comes after Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a new Internet message urging Gaza militants to escalate attacks on Israel over its crippling siege of the territory.

"Do not give up... increase your martyrdom attacks, the number of rockets you launch and your ambushes. There is no other solution," Zawahiri said in the message marking the anniversary of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, seized power last June, ousting forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.


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