JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian militants fired at least 12 rockets into southern Israel on Sunday, drawing an Israeli threat to step up attacks in the Gaza Strip in a three-day-old surge of cross-border violence.
“The Israel Defence Forces will not hesitate to widen its actions and to respond with as much force as is needed,” Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, the military’s chief spokesman, said on Israel Radio, a day after an Israeli was killed in a rocket strike on the southern city of Beersheba.
The bloodshed began on Thursday, when gunmen whom Israel said came from the Gaza Strip and crossed into its territory near the Red Sea resort of Eilat via Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, killed eight people in attacks on a desert road.
Five Egyptian security personnel and seven gunmen were also killed in that day’s violence.
Cairo said on Saturday it would recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv over the killing of its men, but welcomed Israel’s promise of a joint investigation.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel regretted the deaths, which have sparked the most serious crisis in ties with Egypt since longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.
Israel has carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip since Thursday that medical officials said have killed least 15 people, among them gunmen and five civilians. Israel said more than 100 rockets have been fired from the Hamas Islamist-controlled enclave at its southern towns and villages.
In Sunday’s attacks, rockets from the Gaza Strip hit an empty school in Beersheba and struck the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. There were no reports of casualties.
Editing by Alistair Lyon