GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - An Israeli aircraft fired at Gaza militants allegedly about to launch rockets at Israel, killing two in the deadliest cross-border fighting in three months.
Israel’s military held Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible, saying in a statement that the Islamists are “not enforcing a policy of restraint over the terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.’’
In a separate action, Gaza militants fired at an army vehicle patrolling the border in southern Gaza, wounding the driver, the army said.
Relatives of the dead men said they were civilians, and local militant groups did not claim responsibility for any of the militant actions.
But Israeli media, quoting anonymous military officials, said they were believed to be members of a faction inspired by Al Qaeda. A militant website with links to the global terror network said the men were part of a group called Tawhid.
Several Al Qaeda-inspired groups have coalesced in Gaza in recent years. They consider Hamas too moderate, despite the ruling group’s militant ideology. Hamas has tried to both crack down on the radicals and co-opt them.
Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting along the Israel-Gaza border in recent years. The most fighting took place in March, with militants firing rockets and heavy mortar barrages at Israel, and Israel retaliating. Nineteen Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes over a two-day stretch in April after Gaza militants fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus.