A rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed a 75-year-old Israeli woman on Monday, just as an Egyptian mediator was winding up truce talks in Israel -- underlining both the urgency and complexity of working out a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas rulers of Gaza.
The deadly rocket hit a house in the village of Yesha, about 6km from Gaza. As recently as Friday, a fatal rocket attack unleashed Israeli reprisals that left five Palestinians dead in Gaza airstrikes.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. On Monday morning, Islamic Jihad fired two Grad rockets at the southern city of Ashkelon. No one was hurt.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denounced the attack but did not say it would halt the truce talks.
"The rocket fire into Israel will end, it will end either because calm will be achieved, or Israel will act to protect its people," he said.
The talks by mediator Omar Suleiman, Egypt's powerful intelligence chief, produced no tangible results on Monday, even before the rocket blasted the house in southern Israel.
Suleiman brought the results of months of talks with the Hamas rulers of Gaza and many smaller militant groups to Israeli leaders for their comments. The outline of the deal would be a six-month truce, stopping the Palestinian rocket and mortar fire and Israeli reprisals. Also, Israel would ease the punishing blockade it imposed after Hamas took power in a violent sweep through Gaza last June.
Israeli officials did not reject the elements of the package, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted on freedom for a soldier, Corporal Gilad Schalit, captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and others demanded an end to smuggling of arms from Egypt.