A missile fired by an Israeli helicopter gunship has killed a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip. The raid came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered his defense forces to take "all necessary steps" against Palestinian militants following a Hamas rocket attack against an Israeli city.
Palestinian witnesses identified the Hamas activist as Hamdi Kalakh, and said three other Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli operation. Mr. Kalakh was riding in a donkey cart in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis when the attack came.
Israeli officials described Mr. Kalakh as the head of a Hamas cell responsible for mortar attacks against a bloc of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip known as Gush Katif.
Thursday's operation was the fourth Israeli attack on Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip in the past week. The attacks follow a Hamas suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem that killed at least 20 people and wounded scores more.
The strike also came hours after a home-made Kassam rocket fired by Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip landed in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon.
Israel says the rockets were launched from the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. A short while later, Israeli forces, including a tank and two armored bulldozers, entered the town and began flattening the area from where the rockets were fired.
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on Thursday said his forces have been issued orders to take whatever action is needed against Palestinian militants.
The prime minister said the firing of the rockets at Ashkelon represented "another escalation" of what he described as "the terrorist activity of the Hamas movement."