Speaking in a radio interview on Tuesday, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said the Jewish state had opened a new chapter in its battle against resistance groups, adding the Palestinian Authority had not taken any moves to rein them in.

In the past 13 days Israel has launched six helicopter attacks against Hamas activists, killing 11 fighters along with three bystanders. Dozens of civilians have been injured in the air strikes.

The Palestinian Authority has been under Israeli and US pressure to dismantle groups struggling against Israel's illegal occupation. It has yet to bow to these demands, fearing an outbreak of civil war.

Mofaz told cabinet colleagues on Monday that they would continue targeted killings, a policy condemned by the Palestinian Authority and the international community.

Mofaz also reiterated calls for the expulsion of Palestinian president Yasir Arafat who has increasingly been sidelined by Israel and the US in favour of unelected Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas.

New invasion?

Relatives of a Hamas activist
mourn his death

Israel’s army chief of staff General Moshe Yaalon was quoted by military radio as saying the army was prepared to launch a “large scale operation” in the occupied Gaza Strip if it believed it necessary.

One Hamas activist was killed in an Apache helicopter attack in Gaza City on Monday, while at least 25 other civilians were injured.

Israel has stepped up its rhetoric because it is living in constant fear, said Hamas leader Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi. 

Al-Rantissi, who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt earlier this summer, said activists were taking security measures to protect themselves.

Activists who do not take necessary steps are in breach of security and face punishment, he said, adding that these moves do not prevent him or others from continuing their resistance.

Girl dies

In other news, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl has died of injuries received in an Israeli helicopter attack earlier this month in the Gaza Strip.

And in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man at a checkpoint near the city of Jenin.

Palestinian sources said the man stepped out of a taxi and was shot. Israeli occupation sources claim he was pointing a gun, an allegation denied by Palestinians.