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Israeli Strike Kills Palestinian Girl, Hamas Mortar Kills Israeli Kibbutz Resident

Palestinian medics say a young Palestinian girl has been killed in an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, after an Israeli died in a cross-border mortar attack. Robert Berger in Jerusalem says Israel is considering harsh retaliation.

A Palestinian mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip slammed into an Israeli kibbutz (collective farm), Thursday. It resulted in the second killing of a kibbutz resident in two weeks.

"The situation is intolerable," said Chaim Yalin, the head of the regional council in the area. He told Israel Radio that Gaza border communities have been bombarded daily for years and the that government and army are doing nothing. He says Israelis are being buried every week and that no one seems to care.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, claims responsibility for the attack. Hamas issued a statement saying that it would confront what it calls "the occupier," because of what Hamas calls its continuing aggression against the Palestinian people. Hamas is especially angry about a crippling Israeli blockade on Gaza, imposed in response to the rocket and mortar fire.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Roni Bar-On says there is only one solution.

Bar-On told Israel Radio that the army must launch a major offensive in Gaza, to put an end to the Palestinian cross-border attacks. However, the government is reluctant to invade Gaza, fearing high casualties among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians and, in turn, international condemnation.

Hamas has offered a ceasefire, but Israel has rejected it. Hamas refuses to renounce violence or to recognize the Jewish state and Israel fears that the group would use a truce to reg-group and re-arm for the next round of conflict.