Gaza Rockets Mar Obama's Israel Visit

PHOTO: A picture shows the damage outside a house after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip hit the southern city of Sderot on March 21, 2013.
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Two rockets from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel today as President Obama began the second day of his visit to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan. Israel's military said the rockets landed in the southern town of Sderot, causing some minor damage but injuring no one.

Obama was in Jerusalem at the time, preparing to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum, before heading to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

There was no claim of responsibility by Hamas or any of the other Palestinian militant groups in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The first rocket, launched just after 7 a.m., hit a house. Photos from the scene showed broken glass and stone, while the second rocket landed in a field.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • Two rockets from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel on Wednesday as President Barack Obama began the second day of his visit to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan. Israel's military said the rockets landed in the southern town of Sderot, causing some minor damage and injuring no one.

"I wish this was merely damage to property but my eight-year-old daughter and my wife are terrified," Yossi Haziza, whose house was hit, told The Associated Press. "We just want to live in peace. We don't want to keep having to run to bomb shelters."

The rockets were a violation of the ceasefire brokered after the eight-day Hamas-Israel conflict in November. Hamas accuses Israel's military of regularly violating the agreement by firing on Gazans who get too close to the border fence.

But the attack naturally took on added significance with Obama about 40 miles away, raising questions of motive and speculation about Israel's response.

The message was "we are here," a Palestinian analyst in Ramallah said, asking for anonymity.

He speculated that the rockets were meant to tell Obama that he isn't paying enough attention to the plights of Gazans and Israel's blockade of the Strip.

READ: Obama Aims to Court Israeli People During First Presidential Visit

"We condemn this violation of the important ceasefire that protects Israelis and Palestinians, a violation Hamas has a responsibility to prevent," Obama said at a news conference today with Abbas.

In the news conference, which focused the lack of a peace process for the past two and a half years, Obama noted to reporters that firing rockets into Israel was one of the main obstacles.

Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank, made no mention of the morning rocket attack during his remarks, which a senior Israeli official called "problematic and regrettable."

Until November, rockets flew into southern Israel with some regularity, a pretext Israel gave for assassinating Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari, sparking the conflict.

The Israeli political officials told the Haaretz newspaper that the response to today's attack "will come at the right time and the right place."

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