GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The militant Hamas rulers of Gaza appealed to other armed Palestinian groups in the territory Tuesday to halt a recent spike in violence, fearing an all-out Israeli invasion in response.
In the latest incident, a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft Tuesday killed an Islamic Jihad militant who was riding a motorcycle in southern Gaza, the Israeli military said. The violent group vowed revenge "at the right time." The military said the militant was planning a major attack on Israel. During the two years since Israel's bruising invasion of Gaza to stop daily rocket attacks, airstrikes aimed at individual militants have been rare.
Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu called on militant Gaza factions to stop firing rockets at Israel and refrain from other attacks on the border as well. He said a cease fire that has been in place for two years serves Palestinian interests and prevents Israeli counterstrikes.
Hamas has made similar appeals for calm in the past few weeks, but rocket fire and Israeli retaliation have continued. The Islamic militant group appears concerned about triggering another large-scale Israeli military campaign similar to a three-week operation two years ago that killed about 1,400 Palestinians -- many of them civilians -- and caused considerable damage in the impoverished territory.
Hamas has largely kept a cease-fire since the Gaza war. But militants sporadically fire rockets at Israel, prompting Israeli reprisals, and border clashes still erupt. Israel holds the Hamas rulers responsible for all violence from Gaza, though Hamas claims that smaller splinter groups are behind most of the rocket fire.
Israel routinely retaliates for Palestinian rocket attacks with airstrikes at militant facilities in Gaza and smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel
Violence has increased in recent days.
Visiting the Gaza border Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a warning:
"I recommend all these groups not to test us," he said. "If they continue to shoot at us, then there will be more strikes on the other side" of the border.
Gaza militants fired three rockets fired into an industrial section of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon Monday. The rockets exploded in an open area and nobody was hurt.
Also Monday, a 65-year-old Gaza man was shot dead by a soldiers at an Israeli guard tower on the border, according to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia. The Israeli military said soldiers fired warning shots toward a Palestinian who entered the no-go buffer zone between Israel and Gaza. The gunfire did not hit the Palestinian, the Israeli military said.