Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved yesterday the recommendation from the defense establishment to impose economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip in response to continued Qassam rocket attacks. The main component of the plan involves temporary disruptions to the electricity supply to different parts of the Gaza Strip, but not to essential institutions, such as hospitals.

Also yesterday, three armed Palestinians were killed in clashes with the IDF in the Gaza Strip.

Barak's decision to approve the plan prepared by his deputy, Matan Vilnai, is conditional on legal approval from Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and from the Military Advocate General.

The decision on utilizing economic sanctions as punishment for continued rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip had originally been approved by the cabinet, on the condition that it would be legally sanctioned. Of particular concern was the issue of proportionality, and on this basis, certain parameters were developed on the kind of sanctions that could be imposed on civilians, without violating basic humanitarian needs.

Defense sources said that the sanctions would be carried out on a weekly basis and will not be directly or immediately linked to the number or frequency of rocket attacks.

The first sanctions will be implemented in the coming days, with electricity supply being disrupted in the evening for periods between 15 minutes to an hour each time.

Another form of sanctions that will be utilized is significantly cutting the volume of fuel, particularly gasoline, allowed into the Gaza Strip.

However, the delivery of diesel will not be disrupted, in great part because of its widespread use in hospitals and public transportation.

During talks with Barak, senior defense officials insisted on "dramatic and drastic" measures, arguing that anything less would have no impact on the security situation.

Yesterday morning, an IDF infantry patrol encountered two armed Hamas militants east of Khan Yunis. Both Palestinians were killed at short range. The IDF force did not sustain any injuries. In addition to their personal weapons, the two militants also carried explosives.

Later in the day, two Palestinians were identified by IDF forces drawing a cart near the ruins of settlements in the northern Gaza Strip. The force engaged the Palestinians, killing one and arresting the other, a 15 year old. Islamic Jihad announced that the dead man was one of its members. Security sources said that the two planned to lay explosives close to the border fence in order to strike IDF patrols.

Also yesterday, three Qassams and four mortars were fired against Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage was reported.