Palestinians reported that the missiles hit a group belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades, a faction whose activists represent the Islamic movement in the Brigades and who carry out many joint terror attacks and operations with Hamas and other organizations.
According to the report, one of the wounded, Omar Abu Sharia, the Mujahideen Brigades' commander, was critically wounded.
This was the third assassination attempt in the past 24 hours. On Friday afternoon, three Izz al-Din al-Qassam activists were killed by a missile fired at their vehicle in the northern Strip.
Early Saturday, another seven activists were killed as a missile was fired at a building they were staying in, also in the northern Strip.
According to Palestinian sources, at least 10 Palestinians were wounded in the night operation, many of them gunmen.
IDF officials reported that the soldiers fired back after an antitank missile was fired at them. There were no injuries among the soldiers.
Outside Khan Younis
Palestinians reported that a large IDF force entered Palestinian territory in the Abu Safia area, between the northern Strip and Gaza City. The gunmen, Hamas activists, who tried to stop the force from advancing, fired an antitank missile at them. In response, the IDF fired a missile at the building in which the gunmen were hiding, killing seven of them.
The operation was part of Operation Four Species, which began several days ago. As part of the operation, the army decided that a force will enter the area from where Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel in recent days. The forces arrived in the area for a short and specific operation and hit the group of Hamas activists, after the latter launched an antitank missile at them.
After several hours, the forces returned north and remained in the Strip, east of Beit Hanoun.
Gaza strike, Saturday afternoon (Photo: AFP)
Simultaneously, the forces left the southern Strip Friday night, putting an end to Operation Rain Man, which was held east of Khan Younis in the past 72 hours, and in which about 15 terrorists were hurt.
The operation took place after Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to continue its boosted operational campaign in the northern and southern Strip in an attempt to thwart and prevent the firing of Qassam rockets at western Negev communities, mainly during the holiday.
'Israel trying to cause maximum losses'
Palestinian Cabinet Speaker Dr. Ghazi Hamad harshly criticized the escalation which he claimed Israel was causing. Hamas said that the Israeli escalation was part of the Israeli government's crime policy against the Palestinian people.
According to Hamad, Israel was damaging civil facilities and buildings, as part of its plan "to boost the Israeli aggressiveness" against the Strip, as has been stressed by many Israel spokespeople.
"These actions show that the occupation government is continuing with its plan for a bloody military escalation in order to cause maximum Palestinian losses. We call on the international community to work urgently in order to halt Israel and punish it for these ugly massacres. We call on our people to unite and halt the internal escalation in light of what the enemy is planning," Hamad added.
Meanwhile, Hamas military wing's spokesman Abu Ubaidah said that Israel's recent crimes – hurting Palestinian activists and striking Palestinian targets – "points to the failure of the Zionist political and military leadership. Whenever they enter our territory, they encounter resistance and are forced to withdraw. We will not be deterred by these crimes and great losses and will continue in our path, the path of victory and death as martyrs."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report