Those killed were intending to launch an assault on Israelis during the upcoming Passover holidays, says IDF Spokesperson.By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
IDF planes attacked a cell of Palestinian militants in the south of the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, Channel 10 reported. Palestinian sources have confirmed that three men were killed in the attack.
An IDF Spokesperson stated that the three men killed in Gaza were members of a terrorist cell that was "planning to kidnap Israelis over the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover" in Israel and in the Sinai Peninsula, a popular spring tourist destination for Israelis.
Gaza residents said the planes fired on a car in which the three men were travelling in the south Gaza town of Khan Younis just before 2 A.M. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia confirmed that the three men were killed.
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, later issued a
statement saying the men killed were Hamas militants. They called the strike a crime and vowed revenge. Earlier, some Gaza officials had said that they belonged to the Islamic Jihad group.
Israel has warned its citizens to refrain from visiting the Sinai, fearing attacks by militants.
In recent weeks, Palestinian militants have fired rocket salvoes into the country, reaching as far as Be'er Sheva, and Israel has carried out a series of air strikes. Despite the spike in violence along the Gaza-Israel border of late, both Israeli officials and Hamas representatives have said that they want to avoid an escalation at this time.
Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in rocket attacks and suicide bombings. Israel, the U.S. and other countries consider Hamas a terror group because of their attacks aimed at civilians.
Gaza militants still hold Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive after abducting him in a cross-border raid in 2006. Hamas is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of murdering Israeli civilians, in exchange for Shalit.
Israel Air Force jets struck a group of Palestinian militants in southern Gaza on Wednesday, killing one gunman and wounding another as they rode a motorcycle, Gaza medical officials said.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed carrying out the dawn strike, saying it targeted Palestinians who had launched a short-range rocket across the border on Tuesday. No one was hurt in that attack, which followed a surge in fighting around Gaza this month.