Dec 24, 3:48 PM EST

Israel strikes Gaza after Palestinian sniper fire

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JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday struck targets in the Gaza Strip, killing a Hamas militant, after its troops came under attack by Palestinian snipers while patrolling the Israeli side of the border, the military said.

It was the first deadly clash between the sides since a 50-day war over the summer, and came days after Israel carried out its first postwar airstrike in Gaza in response to renewed rocket fire.

The Israeli military said air and tank units attacked targets on Wednesday following the sniper attack. It said one soldier, a member of a Bedouin Arab unit, had been seriously injured.

"Our policy is clear - a strong and vigorous response in the face of any attempt to violate the quiet in the south," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "We will respond strongly to any attempt to violate the quiet that was achieved" in the summertime operation, he added.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, identified the dead man as Tayseir Smeiri, the head of its border reconnaissance unit in the area.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, accused Israel of provoking the hostilities. "We warn the occupation against repeating these stupidities," he said.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the municipality said it had granted permits for the construction of more than 500 new housing units in two neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. The permits, in the neighborhoods of Ramot and Har Homa, appeared to be technical modifications to previously approved projects.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. While it considers the area to be part of its capital, the Palestinians and the international community do not recognize Israel's annexation and oppose such construction. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

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