Israel went after Palestinian militants in northern Gaza yesterday with airstrikes, tanks and infantry, killing one gunman, Palestinian security officials said, but that didn't stop rockets from slamming into southern Israel.
Israeli tanks rumbled up to an apartment complex on the outskirts of the town of Beit Lahiya around dawn, security officials said. Troops fired bursts from their turret-mounted machine guns, killing a militant and wounding another man, and then the tanks withdrew, they said.
The officials said that militants had fired rockets into Israel from a field near the apartment complex overnight. None of the Palestinian militant groups immediately claimed the dead man as a member.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The army said Israeli troops in the same area saw a figure they deemed suspicious and opened fire, but think he escaped unharmed. It was not immediately clear if this was the same incident in which the Palestinian was killed.
Israeli infantrymen were also operating inside Beit Lahiya yesterday. Snipers took over a building overnight, security officials said, and militants fired two shoulder-launched rockets at them, setting the top floor on fire. Residents said helicopter gunships hovered overhead, and the Hamas TV station showed tanks moving through streets and army bulldozers leveling agricultural land just outside the town.
The rockets, meanwhile, kept landing. Three were fired from Gaza, the army said, and two landed -- one in the rocket-scarred city of Sderot, and the other in an open field. No injuries were reported.
This came a day after Israel's security Cabinet on Wednesday decided to press on with military raids and "targeted killings" in the Gaza Strip but had not ordered a large-scale assault in response to a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks.
As Israeli forces killed four Gazans in fresh fighting -- two militants and two civilians, according to Palestinian witnesses and medics -- a Cabinet statement said the military had been told to prepare and present a plan for a broader sweep.
More Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rolled into northern Gaza, joining forces already there, witnesses said.
Soldiers killed two gunmen from the governing Hamas faction, hospital officials said. They said a Palestinian woman, 35, was killed by Israeli shelling in an area used by rocket crews, and that troops killed a 14-year-old boy in a nearby refugee camp.
A military spokeswoman said Israeli forces had fired at Palestinians who attacked them with rockets.
Some ministers had wanted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to approve tougher action to halt rocket salvos from Gaza.
A large-scale offensive, however, holds political risks for Olmert, whose popularity plummeted after Israel failed to crush Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in a recent war.
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