JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers and tanks swept into the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday in what the military said was the latest attempt to prevent Palestinian militants from firing rockets into communities in southern Israel.
The sweeps into Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya followed a series of attacks by militants firing homemade Kassam rockets into Israeli towns across the border from the Gaza Strip. One of those volleys early Sunday injured an Israeli woman in the town of Sderot, which has been a frequent target.
Later, an Israeli factory worker was seriously injured when mortars struck an industrial park next to the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he had instructed the army to take vigorous action against militants who fire mortars and rockets into Jewish settlements inside Gaza and across the border into Israel.
A military spokeswoman said an Israeli soldier had been wounded by an antitank missile during the operation, which was scaled back by evening.
A Palestinian cameraman for an Israeli television station was wounded by military gunfire, Israeli media reported. The military spokeswoman said she had no immediate information on the shooting.
The incursion into northern Gaza began hours after a separate Israeli operation ended in Khan Yunis, in the southern portion of the coastal strip. Israeli forces sought in recent days there to stem rocket fire into Jewish settlements nearby.
The newest Gaza operation took place not far from where the interim Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, was campaigning in his bid to be elected president of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas, largely viewed as a pragmatist, replaced Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He has called for an end to armed resistance against Israel, but used recent campaign events to solidify his support among the militants and their backers.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he found "disturbing" a photograph of Abbas being carried on the shoulders of a Palestinian militant leader during a recent appearance in the West Bank.
Interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," Powell said, however, that he believed Abbas recognized "the need to end terror and the need to try to persuade all segments of the Palestinian population to move away from terror and to move toward this opportunity for peace."
Powell said that if Abbas wins next Sunday's election, "I think he knows that the only way forward with a successful election behind him is to reform the Palestinian Authority, end corruption, make sure that it's an authority that rests on law, reform the security services."
Abbas has said that armed struggle has done more harm than good to Palestinians. He criticized the Kassam rocket attacks during a campaign appearance Sunday, Associated Press reported, saying they invited Israeli retaliation.
The latest poll, issued Sunday, had Abbas leading in the campaign by a nearly 3 to 1 margin over his nearest competitor.
The poll, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, showed Abbas with the support of 65% of respondents who planned to vote, compared with 22% for Mustafa Barghouti, a physician and human rights activist. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Abbas is more popular in the Gaza Strip, a stronghold of militant groups such as Hamas, than in the West Bank, according to the poll.
In other developments, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet on Sunday that he intended to seek ministers' final approval this month for his planned withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza and a small portion of the West Bank, Israeli media reported.
The Cabinet vote would come more than a month earlier than planned in order to give settlers time to evacuate before being ordered out.