BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip -- Israeli aircraft and artillery bombarded open areas in northern Gaza yesterday as part of an intensifying campaign against Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli border areas.
No injuries were reported in the air and artillery strikes that began just after midnight and continued throughout the day.
But missiles heavily damaged roads as well as water and sewage lines. Electricity in the area also was knocked out after the main transformer was hit. One missile tore a deep crater into a sandy field.
Artillery shells were fired after Palestinian militants sent a homemade Qassam rocket slamming into southern Israel, the Israeli military said.
Israel uses artillery shelling more sparingly than airstrikes because it is less accurate and poses a higher risk of harming Palestinian civilians.
The Palestinian interior minister, Nasser Yousef, meanwhile, told his security chiefs that ''firm and serious action" would be taken against facilities used to manufacture or store weapons, his office said in a statement released yesterday.
But there was no talk of disarming militants, as Israel has demanded, and the statement said Palestinian security forces ''would not enter any house looking for weapons."
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Palestinian police fired in the air to disperse about 60 Islamic Jihad activists who gathered outside the offices of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian security officials said orders have been given to clamp down on Islamic Jihad protests, an apparent effort to pressure the militant group to halt its attacks on Israel.
Islamic Jihad has been responsible for the most violent attacks against Israeli targets since a February cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, including a suicide bombing on Wednesday.
A week of confrontations began Monday with Israel's killing of a top Islamic Jihad gunman blamed in the deaths of 12 Israelis in recent months. A retaliation bombing by Islamic Jihad on Wednesday killed five Israelis. On Thursday, missiles fired at a car from Israeli aircraft killed four Islamic Jihad members and three bystanders.
An eighth militant was killed Friday after Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the car in which he was riding.
Israeli leaders took an exceptionally harsh line against Abbas's leadership last week, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon saying he would not meet with Abbas until he cracks down on militants, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz saying the Palestinian leader was too weak to deliver a final peace deal.
The Sharon government's criticism of Abbas is unprecedented, but it is unclear whether it signals a shift in policy.
The international community has urged Israel to work with Abbas, a moderate who opposes violence but also refuses to disarm militant groups by force, citing fear of civil war.