JERUSALEM (Agencies) – A member of the Hamas security force was shot and killed early Wednesday in a stronghold of the Islamic group in Gaza City, hospital officials said.
The circumstances of the shooting in the Zeitoun neighborhood were not immediately clear.
Elsewhere, Israeli leaders decided on Wednesday against a broad offensive in Gaza to curb cross-border rocket attacks but did not rule out cutting off Israeli-supplied power to the territory, a government official said.
Palestinian militants regularly fire Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza. An explosion near a kindergarten in the Israeli town of Sderot this week rekindled calls for reprisals. No one was killed in the attack but television footage of traumatised children and parents struck a nerve in Israel and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened his security cabinet to consider stronger military action to try to stop the salvoes.
Speaking after the security session, the government official said Defence Minister Ehud Barak recommended “pinpointed” attacks against militants rather than embarking on a large-scale invasion of Gaza, controlled since June by Hamas Islamists. A massive Israeli offensive, some security cabinet members cautioned before the meeting, could cause heavy Israeli and Palestinian casualties and complicate plans for a U.S.-proposed Middle East peace conference expected in November. “The prime minister has ordered the army to provide a plan on how to minimise rockets,” the official.
Israel, the official said, was also examining the legal implications of shutting down Israeli-supplied utilities to the impoverished territory.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a close Olmert confidant, has called for periodic power cuts as punishment for each rocket fired.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Gaza’s population uses about 200 megawatts of electricity, out of which 120 are provided directly from Israeli power lines, 17 are delivered from Egypt and 65 are produced at a plant in Gaza.
Asked about the rocket attacks, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel could “send a message to Hamas” — the Islamist group which seized control of Gaza from secular rivals Fatah in June — without provoking a humanitarian crisis. “Life cannot continue normally (in Gaza). Even if we are unable to prevent completely the firing of Qassams, I think there are things a country is obliged to do,” she said at a news conference with her Italian counterpart.
Militants in the Gaza Strip, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, say they have a right to fire rockets as part of their resistance to Israeli occupation.
Israel pulled settlers and troops out of the territory in 2005 in a withdrawal that Palestinians do not consider an end to occupation because Israeli authorities still control Gaza’s borders, its air space and coastal waters.