Hamas Militants Shoot Israeli Near Gaza Border Crossing

Hamas militants shot and wounded an Israeli civilian near the main cargo crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Monday, embarrassing the Palestinians' new government and laying bare internal friction that could tear it apart.

Israel swiftly denounced the attack, saying it proved the new governing alliance between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah movement was flouting international demands to disarm, recognize Israel and accept past peace accords with the Jewish state.

"This terror attack is precisely what the new Palestinian government refuses to condemn, thus rejecting the conditions placed upon it by the international community," said David Baker, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office.

The shooting, about 300 yards north of the Karni cargo crossing, came as a senior Norwegian diplomat was in Gaza for the first meeting between a high-ranking Western official and Hamas government officials.

The Israeli electric company said in a statement that one of its workers was shot and seriously wounded as he was working on a tower near the crossing.

Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen of Norway said before the attack that he hoped other states would follow his country's lead and recognize the new Palestinian coalition, installed on Saturday.

There was no immediate comment from the government. But a confidant of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas called for an end to violence.

"Our position is still the same. We are calling for mutual calm, and desire continuous calm," Ghazi Hamad said. A cease-fire between Israel and Gaza has been in effect since late November.

The new Palestinian information minister, independent Mustafa Barghouti, said the Palestinian goal was a "complete" cease-fire. "We do realize that some actions undermine the duty of the government to release the people from the siege they are suffering," he said, but blamed Israel for the violence.

The Hamas movement — which includes the group's so-called military wing — has been uncomfortable with concessions its political leaders made to Israel in joining the new coalition, which replaced a government the Islamic group led after sweeping parliamentary elections a year ago.

In a claim of responsibility, Hamas' military wing called the shooting Monday "a response to continued Zionist aggression."

"The government's political platform allows resistance in all forms and this is one," said Abu Obeida, a Hamas military wing spokesman.

The coalition's political platform stopped short of accepting the conditions the international community set for lifting sanctions imposed on the Palestinian government after Hamas took power.

It also refers to resistance "in all forms" to Israeli occupation.

But the coalition also called for expanding a truce with Israel, and establishing a Palestinian state on lands the Israelis captured in 1967 — in contrast to Hamas' past calls to destroy Israel.

It pledged to "respect" previous Palestinian agreements with Israel and authorizes moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah to conduct peace talks. Any deal would be submitted to a national referendum.

Many Palestinians interpret these stipulations as implicit recognition of Israel by Hamas.

On Sunday, Olmert said peace talks with any member of the Palestinian government would be impossible as long as the coalition refused to renounce violence and recognize Israel. Israel's Cabinet endorsed his position and urged the international community to maintain the economic sanctions.

The Quartet of Middle East peacemakers — the U.S., European Union, U.N. and Russia — was discussing its approach to the new Palestinian unity government on Monday — its first joint consultation since the coalition was formed. EU foreign ministers are to discuss the matter at the end of the month.

Norway, which is not a member of the EU, recognized the new government the day it was sworn in. On Monday, Johansen met with Haniyeh and other Palestinian officials in Gaza City.

"We think and we hope that other European countries and even other countries will follow up the support for this unity government," Johansen said. "But it's also up to the unity government itself to fulfill the expectations."

The formation of the governing alliance capped months of negotiations. The resulting tensions often exploded into factional violence that claimed more than 140 lives.

Abbas has brushed aside international misgivings about Fatah joining forces with Hamas, saying it was the only way to avert a Palestinian civil war.

Before the shooting, a poll published Monday showed that more than half of all Israelis disagreed with their government's decision to boycott the Palestinians' new governing alliance.

Thirty-nine percent of the 517 people surveyed by the Dahaf Research Institute said Israel should talk with the new Palestinian government. An additional 17 percent said their government should engage only Fatah Cabinet ministers. The poll had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.