An Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip killed two Hamas fighters near the Egyptian border late Wednesday, the Islamist movement that controls the Palestinian territory said.
The strike, witnessed by an AFP photographer, hit a car in the town of Rafah on the territory's southern border with Egypt.
The Israeli military issued a statement saying that air force planes "targeted two terror operatives affiliated with the 'Defenders of al-Aqsa' in the southern Gaza Strip. A direct hit was confirmed."
One of those killed, named as Anis Abu Mahmoud el-Anin, was a member of the "terrorist group sponsored by Hamas in the Gaza Strip," the statement added.
The military said Anin was "in the final stages of preparing to carry out a terror attack against Israeli civilians."
He had also been involved in attempted terror attacks that included smuggling explosive devices into Israel via the Israel-Egypt border, according to the statement.
The other dead man was named as Ashraf Mahmoud Salah, whom the statement said had previously admitted, under questioning, to transferring two "terrorists" into Egypt in order to carry out a suicide attack in Israel.
A Hamas statement said the "martyrs" were carrying out a "routine mission of monitoring and securing the southern border between Gaza and Egypt."
It named a third Hamas member, injured in the attack, as Lieutenant Nidal Nasrallah.
Gaza militants fired two mortar rounds into southern Israel earlier without causing casualties or damage, the army said.
Israel routinely responds to such attacks with air strikes, and six Palestinians were killed in two attacks within a 12-hour period last week.
In its statement, the Hamas interior ministry warned against "an escalation of Zionist crimes."
It added that the attack showed "Israel does not want the state of stability to continue in the Gaza Strip."
For over a year, Hamas has officially maintained a tacit truce, punctuated by such outbreaks of violence with the Israeli army.
The last major flare-up in and around Gaza was in June, when militants fired more than 150 rockets at southern Israel, wounding five people, and Israel hit back with air strikes that killed 15 Palestinians.
by Mai Yaghi Â© 2012 AFP
Date: Sep 20, 2012