JERUSALEM — An Israeli aircraft struck a target in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing one person and wounding three others, in the first deadly violence between the sides since a new Palestinian government took office last week.
The late-night airstrike came hours after Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel, the first such attack since President Mahmoud Abbas formed the new government and took charge, at least formally, of Gaza. Israel has warned it would hold the Western-backed Abbas responsible for any attacks out of the territory, though the rival Hamas militant group maintains de facto control.
Witnesses said the airstrike targeted a man on a motorcycle and also struck a nearby car. Hospital officials said the dead man was in his 20s, but gave no further detailson any of the casualties.
The Israeli military said it had targeted ‘‘global jihad-affiliated terrorists,’’ a term it uses to describe Islamic militants who follow the ideology of Al Qaeda.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli had carried out a ‘‘precise operation and will continue to act forcefully against those who try to hurt the security of Israel’s citizens.’’
He said he wanted to remind the international community that Abbas had pledged the new government would uphold previous agreements with Israel. ‘‘This means that he is responsible for dismantling Hamas and other terror groups’’ in Gaza, he said.
Earlier, Abbas’s office condemned the rocket fire and urged Gaza militants to abide by previous cease-fire deals. Israel dismissed the condemnation as ‘‘empty rhetoric.’’
The threat of violence is one of the many challenges Abbas is dealing with as he tries to unite two territories after a seven-year rift. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s forces in June 2007.
Under last week’s deal, Abbas’s new 17-member Cabinet is to administer both Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Hamas has no formal role in the technocrat government, but it backs the unity government and remains the de facto power in Gaza with thousands of armed fighters.
The United States and European Union have been willing to give Abbas, a strong proponent of nonviolence, a chance. The United States welcomed Abbas’s condemnation and suggested it was not ready to hold the new unity government responsible for the attack.
‘‘We expect the Palestinian Authority will do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza into Israel, but we acknowledge the reality that Hamas currently controls Gaza,’’ US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Militants in Gaza, including members of Hamas, have fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the years, though Hamas mostly observed an informal truce in recent years. The West considers Hamas a terror group because of scores of deadly attacks on Israel, though Abbas has said the new Cabinet will follow his pragmatic program.
The unity government was meant to end a crippling split between Abbas and Hamas, but the road to reconciliation has been bumpy.
Salary for more than 40,000 government employees hired by Hamas during the past seven years is a key point of contention. Hamas wants them to be paid by the unity government, though donor countries would probably balk at seeing aid go to members of the Hamas security forces.
Hamas kept Gaza’s banks closed for the past week to pressure Abbas to find a solution, but allowed the banks to reopen Wednesday amid rising public anger against the group.
Hamas officials said no solution to the problem has been found and suggested the opening of the banks is temporary.