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Israeli air strikes kill Gaza militants

Reuters

August 24, 2011 | 2:27 pm

Israeli air strikes killed two Gaza militants, one a local commander of the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip, and wounded four others who fired rockets at Israel, despite a two-day-old truce, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

The Gaza death toll rose to three when Palestinian medical workers recovered the body of a 65-year-old man whom they said had been hit by an Israeli tank shell.

An Israeli military statement said the first air strike targeted a militant in Rafah suspected of involvement in weapons smuggling and militant operations in Egypt’s Sinai from where gunmen entered Israel and killed eight people last week.

Medics said the militant died when his car exploded as a result of the strike and two other people were wounded.

A second militant was killed and two others were wounded in a later air strike after they launched more rockets at Israel, Gaza hospital officials said. Two gunmen were wounded when trying to launch rockets in a third air strike, the army said.

An military spokeswoman said five rocket launchings from the Gaza Strip had been registered during the day, including two after dark. All landed in open areas and did not cause injuries or damage.

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

The violence disrupted a ceasefire agreed on Monday by Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza after five days of intense cross-border violence, following the deadly attacks on an Israeli bus and motorists on Thursday.

Israel struck back at the time, killing seven gunmen at the border with Egypt in fighting in which five Egyptian security personnel were killed, sparking the Jewish state’s first crisis with Egypt’s rulers since the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Initial findings of an investigation Israel began after Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv, showed Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire with Egyptian troops after entering Egyptian territory to chase after 12 gunmen who carried out the attacks, the Haaretz newspaper said.

There was no immediate official comment available on the report in Wednesday’s edition, which said as well that at least some of the gunmen had worn brown uniforms similar to those of Egyptian troops.

During Israel’s assault, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at the gunmen and fired machine guns, killing an Egyptian commander and two other officers. Two more Egyptian troops died later, the Israeli newspaper said.

Israel also killed another 15 Palestinians in a series of retaliatory air strikes in Gaza after the gun attacks, among them the commander of a militant group it blamed for the border assaults, which denied any involvement.

An Israeli man was killed later by one of 150 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza afterwards at the weekend.

The latest rockets forced Israeli security officials to cancel a music festival at the last minute in the city or Ashkelon and weekend soccer matches in southern Israel already postponed from last weekend have also been called off.

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