Israel has ordered its military to expand operations in the Gaza Strip aimed at preventing Palestinian rocket attacks.

News agencies said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and ministers from his security cabinet approved plans for troops to push farther into the Gaza Strip and create a buffer zone to prevent the rocket attacks.

The decision comes after a rocket attack late Tuesday on the city of Ashkelon, on Israel's southern Mediterranean coast. 

The attack caused no casualties, but it was the first time one of the militants' rockets hit the center of a major Israeli city. 

The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility.  Hamas controls the Palestinian government. 

Israel withdrew all troops from Gaza and forced Jewish settlers to leave their homes in the Palestinian territory less than a year ago, after nearly 40 years of occupation.

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man during a raid on a refugee camp near Jericho.  Palestinian security sources say the man was a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

Israeli troops stepped up operations against the Palestinians last month after militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier in a raid.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.