updated 9/12/2007 11:00:59 PM ET 2007-09-13T03:00:59

Israeli ground troops entered the central Gaza Strip Wednesday night, a day after rocket fire from the Palestinian territory wounded dozens of Israeli soldiers. But the military described the incursion as routine and said it was not part of a large-scale mission.

The army gave no further information.

Early Tuesday morning, a Palestinian rocket from Gaza struck an army base in Israel just north of Gaza and wounded 40 soldiers as they slept in their tents. One soldier was in critical condition.

But Israel has ruled out a large-scale military retaliation, a decision some Israelis questioned.

Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and officials have ruled out a reoccupation. But ministers were to meet Sunday to discuss other punitive measures, such as cutting off electricity, fuel and water supplies.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has faced growing calls to respond to the near-daily rocket attacks out of Gaza. Israel has limited its response to brief, limited ground incursions and airstrikes aimed at rocket squads.

U.S. officials have urged Israel to show restraint, fearing heavy action in Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic militant Hamas, could jeopardize new momentum in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

The army is reluctant to mobilize large numbers of troops during the Jewish New Year holiday, which begins Wednesday. Officials also are wary of damaging recent progress in peace efforts ahead of a U.S.-sponsored peace conference expected in November.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after five days of fighting against the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel has no relations with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group, while it has embraced a new pro-Western government formed by Abbas in the West Bank.

Abbas has repeatedly condemned the rocket fire, saying it threatens the peace process. But he holds little sway in Gaza.

Two small extremist groups, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. But Israel held Hamas responsible for the violence because it has done nothing to halt the attacks.

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