An Israeli airstrike on Wednesday killed two Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip including one accused by Israel of ordering rocket attacks, officials said.
Eyewitnesses said Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car in Beit Hanoun carrying Ahmed Zaanin, 21, and Mahmoud Zaanin, 23, killing them both. They were transported to hospital by ambulance.
The Israeli army described Ahmed as a “terrorist operative” belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and involved in recent attacks against Israel and in the planning of “further attacks in the coming days.”
The army accused him of organizing rocket attacks against Israel during the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon on Jan. 15.
“To tolerate Gaza rocket attacks would be to succumb to extremist aggression. It is the IDF’s moral obligation and right to defend its soldiers and civilians from the deadly actions and intentions of terrorists of the likes of Zaanin,” said Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner in an emailed statement.
Islamic Jihad’s military wing said in the a statement that both men were affiliated with the group.
“The blood of martyrs will not be in vain, but a curse that chases the occupier everywhere,” the al-Quds Brigades said.
A day earlier, the Hamas-run government in Gaza denied reports claiming that it had deployed additional forces at the Gaza Strip border to stop attacks on Israel.
Spokesman for the Gaza government Islam Shahwan told Ma’an that “there was no increase to the numbers of security forces deployed at the borders”.
The official was responding to reports in Israeli media that Hamas has deployed hundreds of forces to stop violence against Israel and prevent Israeli reprisals.
Israel Radio reported that the government was trying to stop rogue groups from firing rockets toward Israel.
Also Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to teach Hamas a lesson “very soon” after recent cross-border violence.
“We foil terrorist attacks when we identify that they are in the making and we respond against those who attack us,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem at a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.
“If Hamas and the other terror organizations forgot this lesson, they will learn it again the hard way and very soon,” he said.
Over the past month, tensions have risen in and around Gaza after more than a year of relative calm following Israel’s war on the coastal territory in November 2012 which killed over 170 people, mainly civilians, and injured thousands.
Since Dec. 20, four Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed in violence in and around Gaza.
Israeli army figures show eight rockets have struck Israeli territory since Jan. 1, and another five were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Israeli airstrikes this year on targets in Gaza have injured dozens of people, mainly civilians.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)