An Israeli air strike killed four Palestinians terrorists in Gaza Tuesday evening, Hamas figures said after four Palestinians, including two youths, were killed in a separate Israeli shelling of the territory.
According to the Ma'an news agency, an attack on Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood killed three gunmen belonging to Islamic Jihad's armed wing – the al-Quds Brigades.
The IDF confirmed that its aircraft targeted terrorists who were on their way to launch rockets at Israel. The army said forces identified a hit on the vehicle the terrorists were travelling in. The army said the same terror cell was behind the launching of a Grad rocket towards Beersheba some two weeks ago.
Relatives of IDF attack victims outside hospital (Photo: AP)
At around 9 pm, shortly after the terrorists were killed, a Qassam rocket was fired from Gaza towards Ashkelon. It apparently landed south of the Israeli city. There were no reports of injury or damage.
Abu Ahmad, a spokesman for the al-Quds Brigades, said the terror group's response will come "soon" and will be "different."
Earlier Tuesday, four people were killed from Israeli artillery fire towards Gaza City. Two youths, aged 11 and 16, were among the victims. Eyewitnesses said one of the IDF shells landed at the entrance of a home in Tufah, killing four people and injuring five others. Among those killed were three members of the same family. According to the IDF, terrorists were also killed in the attack.
An initial investigation launched by the IDF found that the artillery fire targeted terrorists who had fired rockets towards the Negev region. The army said it regretted the death of civilians in the incident.
The army estimates that a radar malfunction was one of the causes that lead to the accidental death of Palestinian civilians in the shelling.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his regret that civilians in the Gaza Strip were accidentally killed and injured due to IDF fire, but stressed that the attack was carried out in response to rockets fired at Israel by Hamas.
"It is unfortunate that Hamas continues to purposefully fire dozens of rockets at the citizens of Israel, while using civilians as human shields," he said in a statement. "The State of Israel has no intention to escalate the situation, but the IDF will continue to act determinedly to protect the citizens of Israel."
'International intervention needed'
A Hamas official said in response: "Israel won't feel secure as long at the Palestinian people don't feel secure."
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said in response to the shelling "it seems that the Israeli occupation is seeking escalation. We fired mortars only at army positions; we did not hurt civilians like Israel has."
A spokesman for Hamas in north Gaza said the "resistance will respond to the Israeli escalation," while Islamic Jihad said its men were "committed to respond the massacre conducted by Israel."
Damage in Gaza after IDF attack (Photo: EPA)
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the attack "demands immediate international intervention to force Israel to stop the violence and dangerous escalation against our people in the Gaza Strip."
International forces should also "provide protection to unarmed civilians whom Israel is targeting through raids, shelling or the continuous unfair blockade on the Gaza Strip," he said.
IDF officials estimated that the surge of confrontations with terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will continue over the next few weeks. They noted, however, that Hamas has no interest in significant, long-term escalation of the situation.
Shortly before the IDF shelling in Gaza, four mortars were fired from the Hamas-ruled territory toward the northern Negev region. The shells exploded in open areas within the limits of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injury or damage.
Later Tuesday, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza towards Ashkelon landed in an open area outside the Israeli city. There were no reports of injury or damage.
At around 6 pm another mortar shell that was fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area near a kibbutz in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
The IDF Southern Command instructed Gaza vicinity residents to stay on high alert, fearing that more rockets will be fired towards the region overnight.
Yoav Zitun contributed to the report
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