An Israeli helicopter fired several missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing one person, believed to be a senior member of the militant group Hamas.

Local witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion, then saw a cloud of smoke rising from the site of the attack. Some said they saw body parts flying through the air after the missiles hit the car.

The target was a senior member of Hamas, the group that has claimed responsibility for dozens of recent suicide attacks against Israel.

Israel often targets senior Palestinian militants in this way, a practice critics call 'assassination.'

Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man outside a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

These latest incidents come just two days before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is due in the region to talk with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and promote the latest international peace plan.