An Israel Air Force strike killed at least one Palestinian and critically wounded another in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, local medical workers and Hamas officials said.

Hamas Islamists said the target was a group of militants who fired Qassam rockets into southern Israel.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed there had been a missile strike in the northern part of the Hamas-controlled territory.

The situation in the Gaza Strip escalated last week, with at least 36 Palestinans killed in IDF strikes and close to 200 Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel.

Four Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the western Negev on Sunday, including at least one that struck Sderot. There were no injuries or damages reported in any of the incidents.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Sunday he was concerned the government had become "blunted" in its approach to the rocket barrages that have befallen the southern city of Sderot.

"After this difficult weekend I really would have expected the [Israel Defense Forces] chief of staff to be speaking before us," Dichter told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

"I am worried the government has become blunted to the situation in Sderot. The operations being carried out by the IDF are praiseworthy, but are not changing the picture of the situation," he added.

The public security minister also said that "the residents of Sderot are living with a feeling of Gazan roulette. The government cannot build its strategy on roulette."

Dichter earlier Sunday told Kadima ministers that Sderot, which has absorbed most of the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, was likely to "collapse" if the IDF did not succeed in deterring militants in the coastal territory.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told ministers that in its operations over recent days, the IDF had harmed the Hamas' infrastructure in Gaza and was focusing its raids against the launching of Qassam rockets.

He also said the defense establishment was continuing to advance preparations for an expanded operation in the Gaza Strip.

"We will work for a solution to the Qassams, but it is impossible to work with the remarks of the media. It looks as though the government is weakening itself," he said.

"We must demonstrate strength, and I recommend to everybody not to take hasty steps without checking first the significance."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told ministers that during his visits to the Negev last week, he found residents to be exhibiting increasing "endurance and strength," despite the barrage of Qassam rockets it has absorbed recently.

"The firing [of rockets] cannot be gauged on the numbers casualties," Olmert said. "On my visits to the south last week I found a different atmosphere in Sderot and the Gaza envelope, more endurance and strength."

Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim said that Israel was not interested in exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, saying, "most of the residents there are hostages of a crazy regime."

Schism within Hamas regarding rocket attacks Four Qassam rockets struck southern Israel on Saturday, marking a sharp reduction in rocket attacks from the Strip.

It seems Hamas militants are still behind many of the rocket attacks and that the ruling organization has abandoned its practice of leaving the launching to other groups, as had done until last week.

According to estimations presented to Olmert over recent days, there is a schism within Hamas regarding the launching of rockets, considering the heavy losses the group suffered over the last week as well as the difficult internal situation in the Gaza Strip.

One of the estimations given to the prime minister is that Hamas is prepared to stop firing rockets, because it assumes that such a move would bring about a decrease in IDF activities and would give the militant organization a chance to regroup.

Still, the head of Hamas' armed wing refuses to stop the launching of rockets.

The prime minister was expected to focus most of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday on the situation in the Gaza Strip, and the head of military intelligence, Major-General Amos Yadlin, was scheduled to speak to ministers regarding the situation.