GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – An Israeli airstrike wounded a member of a Gaza rocket squad Saturday, a day after 29 rockets hit Israeli border areas.
Gaza militants fired two more rockets Saturday, despite stepped up Israeli sanctions against Gaza, including an electricity cutback meant to pressure Hamas to halt rocket fire.
Britain on Saturday criticized Israel’s cutback, and urged Israel to reverse the decision.
The rocket squad targeted in Saturday’s airstrike belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees, a small militant group with ties to Hamas, a spokesman said. It was operating in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile toward the group.
Medics said one of the militants was seriously wounded. The Israeli military confirmed the airstrike.
On Friday, 29 rockets hit Israeli border areas, wounding two people and damaging two houses.
Late Thursday, Israel cut back by less than 1 percent the power it supplies to Gaza. It was the latest of several Israeli measures meant to pressure the poverty-stricken population of 1.5 million to get their Hamas rulers to stop the attacks. In October, Israel began reducing fuel shipments to the territory.
Hamas said it would not be deterred by Israel’s cutback of the power supply. Human rights groups have denounced the move as collective punishment.
On Saturday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement that he was “extremely concerned” by the cuts. “We believe that such action risks a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Gaza without improving the security situation. Without a steady supply of electricity hospitals cannot function, pumping stations and sewage systems fail, and access to clean water is denied,” Miliband said.
Israel says economic sanctions are preferable to a ground offensive in Gaza that could cause many casualties. Israel has dismissed talk of a humanitarian crisis as Hamas propaganda, saying power and fuel can be redistributed to make sure key installations, such as hospitals, keep functioning. Gaza engineers say that’s often technically impossible, and that rolling blackouts are the only way to deal with the power deficit.
Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, Israel and Egypt have imposed a virtual blockade of the territory. Israel has launched scores of airstrikes and ground incursions against militants launching the rockets. This week, 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes, all but one militants. Earlier in the week, Hamas took responsibility for a suicide bombing in southern Israel that killed one woman and wounded 11.
For now, Israel plans to reduce electricity to Gaza by 1.5 megawatts over three weeks, according to a Defense Ministery plan upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court. Israel supplies about 120 megawatts to Gaza. Further cuts are possible unless Hamas ends rocket fire, said Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror.
Gaza’s power plant produces about 55 megawatts, with fuel from Israel, and Egypt supplies 17 megawatts. Gaza engineers say the territory has an electricity deficit of at least 20 percent, mainly because Israel has cut back fuel supplies to the power plant.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, but still controls all its passages to the world except the one with Egypt.