Security officials said the army attacked a building used by al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades members as a training and planning center. Palestinian sources said an Apache gunship fired missiles at the building and at a vehicle carrying al-Aqsa Brigades members.
Later, The IDF distributed leaflets in the Gaza Strip telling residents that "terror elements continue to fire at Israeli territories, hurt the Israeli population, prevent calm on the Palestinian side, and are forcing war and casualties in the area."
In the leaflets, residents were warned to stay away from northern Gaza Strip areas used as Qassam rocket launching sites.
"For your own safety you're warned to stay away from these areas. Anyone ignoring this warning is putting his life in genuine danger," the leaflets read.
The IDF's attack overnight constitutes the Air Force's first significant operation in the Gaza Strip in 2006. Earlier this year, the Air Force fired at access roads to rocket launching sites and was also called upon to target armed Palestinians spotted in the area. However, the latest attack marks the first "targeted assassination" of terrorists.
Although the latest Qassam strikes over the weekend were claimed by Islamic Jihad, security officials said the Air Force operation was directed at terror elements regardless of their organizational affiliation.
"The working assumption is that whoever plans and uses terror against Israel isn't immune," one official said. "It's a simple equation."
These words echo recent statements by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who said during a meeting of security officials last Thursday Israel will act against terrorists, "no matter which organization they are affiliated with."
'IDF will use all means necessary'
Army sources said Sunday that "the IDF will choose who to target and when." According to these sources, al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades members have been involved in many Qassam shootings at Israel in recent weeks.
"Tonight we acted against terrorists who operated and continue to operate against Israel, and we shall do the same in the future," an army official stated.
The Qassam attack on kibbutz Karmiya south of Ashkelon Friday evening left Osher Amar, a seven-months-old baby, his father and his uncle wounded. The IDF responded with artillery fire to the Strip, and army sources noted this was a massive strike aimed at several launching sites in the Palestinian rear, in a bid to prevent terrorists from accessing these areas.
Until Saturday night, the army has refrained from initiating air strikes, "due to different considerations, including weather conditions."
However, Southern Command officials stressed the army "shall not hesitate to implement all means in order to prevent Qassam fire,"
Ali Waked contributed to the report