Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on north Gaza on Monday, medics said, just hours after gunmen mounted a deadly ambush on the Egyptian border, killing an Israeli.
“Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike targeting a group of people east of Beit Hanun,” said Adham Abu Selmiya, spokesman for the Hamas-run emergency services.
A spokesman for the Israeli military confirmed the strike but refused to say whether it was connected to the early-morning attack along the Egyptian border.
“I can confirm there was a targeted attack a while ago against two terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip,” he said.
Witnesses identified the two men as members of the radical Islamic Jihad movement and said they were riding a motorcycle near the Israeli border at the time.
They named the two as Mohamed Shabat and Ismail Odeh, saying both were in their 20s.
Earlier, an exchange of fire along Israel’s southern border with Egypt in an area which is close to the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of two gunmen and an Israeli civilian on Monday morning, Israeli public radio said.
Three gunmen, believed to be Palestinians, opened fire towards a convoy of vehicles carrying Israeli construction workers to the place where they were building part of the vast border fence along the frontier, prompting Israeli troops in the area to open fire.
Initial reports said two of the gunmen were killed along with one of the Israeli construction workers.
The Israeli army confirmed that gunmen had opened fire on construction workers in the area of the border, but did not immediately confirm the toll.
“A terrorist squad opened gunfire and possibly also fired an anti-tank rocket at an area where (Israel) is constructing the border fence,” Israeli military spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio.
“Soldiers arrived on the scene and killed one terrorist,” he said.
Army Radio said that an Israeli workman was killed by the militants, but Mordechai would only say “there is a small number of fatalities.” He said the attack happened about 30 kilometers from the Gaza Strip on the Egyptian border.
And a spokeswoman could not confirm whether the shooting came from the Egyptian side of the border, or from inside Israel.
“Fire was opened at Israeli workers during routine construction work on the security fence between Israel and Egypt,” she said, adding that troops had “opened fire towards the terrorists.”
An Israeli military source said one of the workmen, an Arab citizen of Israel, was killed by the gunmen. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Soldiers who rushed to the scene killed two of the militants and searched the Israeli side of the border for more gunmen, the source said.
To curb an influx of African migrants and boost security, Israel is building a fence along the frontier with Egypt that it hopes to complete by the end of the year. The barrier will run most of the 266 km (165 miles) from Eilat, on the Red Sea, up to the Gaza Strip.
The porous desert border between Israel and Egypt was relatively quiet for three decades after the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979. But Israel says Egypt has lost its grip on the Sinai since Mubarak’s downfall.
In the most serious attack in the area since the Egyptian popular uprising, militants crossed over the Egyptian border and killed eight Israelis in August 2011.
On Saturday, at least two rockets were fired deep into southern Israel, causing no damage or casualties. It was not clear whether they were launched from Gaza or Sinai.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, ruled by Islamist Hamas, have launched Grad rockets at Israel from the coastal territory in the past. Israel says militants have also crossed into Sinai to launch similar attacks on its territory.
Overnight on Sunday, Israeli aircraft carried out a series of strikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the enclave. Medical sources in Gaza said seven people were wounded.