GAZA CITY // The Israeli military yesterday killed a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip who allegedly led a militant organisation involved in recent attacks on southern Israel.
Yesterday's targeted killing threatened to rattle a shaky ceasefire brokered between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers after an eight-day war in November that killed 174 Palestinians and six Israelis. It came on the same day that an Israeli settler in the West Bank was killed by a Palestinian - the first such case in more than a year.
Leaving behind pools of blood, an air raid just north of Gaza City's Shati refugee camp killed Haitham Mishal, 24, Israel's military said.
Mishal had worked as a manufacturer and trader in rockets and explosives for a group of militants called the Shura Council of the Mujahideen, it said.
Health ministry officials in Gaza said Mishal worked as a security guard at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. They said the attack also injured a bystander.
The Israelis claimed that Mishal's group had fired rockets at the Israeli city of Eilat from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on April 17 and then killed a contract worker for Israel's defence ministry in June.
"We hit today one of those involved in the despicable rocket fire on Eilat," said Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, yesterday.
"We do not accept sporadic rocket fire from Gaza or Sinai. We will act to protect the citizens of Israel, and we are acting."
Hamas officials refrained from demanding a violent response to the Israeli air raid.
The Islamist group has sought to stop Gaza's Salafist militants from breaching the truce with Israel, arresting and allegedly beating those launching mortars and rockets.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson, called for a "joint and unified" response by Gaza's fighting factions to Israeli attacks and requested assistance from Cairo in convincing Israel to cease its military operations. Egypt helped to broker the ceasefire that ended the November fighting.
"We call on Egypt to put pressure on the Israeli occupation to stop these crimes and to force them to honour the truce and stop the aggression," Mr Barhoum said.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian villages and a school bus in apparent retaliation for the killing yesterday of an Israeli settler.
A Palestinian man stabbed and then shot the settler, identified as Eviatar Borovzky, 32, as he stood at a bus stop near the city of Nablus, Israeli police officials said.
The armed wing of the West Bank's dominant Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said it had "received a green light to begin a series of operations against the occupiers" of Israel.
Israeli forces have killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank this year.
* Additional reporting by the Associated Press