(Reuters) - Israel escalated its threats on Tuesday to invade the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian rocket fire after a plan to withhold key utilities drew objections from legal experts and foreign powers.
Since quitting Gaza in 2005, Israel has mounted regular commando raids and air strikes on rocket crews but the salvoes have not ceased. Two such operations on Tuesday killed at least four Hamas policemen and wounded six Palestinian civilians.
Islamist Hamas's takeover of the territory in June stoked calls in the Jewish state for a big military sweep.
"Every passing day brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told reporters. "We are not looking forward to it (and) we would be happy if circumstances prevented it."
Israel, which controls official Gazan border crossings, began reducing the amount of fuel pumped to Gaza this week. It also wants to reduce power supplies but has put that on hold.
The sanctions prompted UN and EU delegates to urge Israel not to impose "collective punishment", illegal under international law, on Gaza's 1.5 million residents.
Israel's attorney general also opposes cutting electricity supplies to Gaza on humanitarian grounds.
Britain said it was "deeply concerned" by reports that Israel had reduced Gaza's fuel supply and was considering power cuts, and had spoken to the Israeli government about the matter.