A Qassam rocket landed at the center of the southern coastal city of Ashkelon for the first time on Tuesday evening, hitting the ORT Ronson High School building, causing light damage to the structure but no injuries.
Hamas - via its military wing, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades - later claimed credit for the rocket attack, the deepest ever a Qassam has reached into Israeli territory.
In response to the strike, Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Tuesday ordered the Israel Defense Forces to step up the pace and force of its operation in the Gaza Strip.
"This is a major escalation in the war of terror that the Hamas organization is responsible for," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones, marking the American Fourth of July holiday.
The attack was an "attempt meant to harm Israeli civilians that live within the sovereign borders of Israel, and it will have far-reaching consequences," the prime minister continued. "The Hamas organization will be the first to feel this."