Israeli helicopter gunships have fired missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing at least two people and wounding 20 others. The target of the attack is believed to have been members of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, a group that carries out suicide bombings.

Witnesses said they saw four explosions after Israeli helicopters fired the missiles and saw Israeli F-16 fighter planes flying overhead. Palestinians say the planes are used to mask the sound of approaching helicopters.

It was the sixth such operation of its kind by Israel in the past two weeks, in which more than 10 Islamic militants and three bystanders have been killed. The operations began in the wake of a Hamas suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem on August 19 that killed 20 Israelis.

The missile strike also came shortly after the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, General Moshe Ya'alon, warned that he stands ready to send ground forces into the Gaza Strip in a bid to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel. If the order is given, it would mean that an infantry brigade of about 3,000 soldiers would be sent against Hamas bases in Gaza.

In the past two weeks, Hamas has fired dozens of home-made Kassam rockets at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and targets inside Israel. One of the rockets reached Ashkelon, a coastal city north of Gaza and Israel said the intended target had been a power station.

Israel's Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, says he is also in favor of a ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip if the rocket fire does not stop.