GAZA Israeli forces killed two Palestinian militants during an incursion in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday that touched off clashes with gunmen from the governing Hamas movement, local officials said.
They said militants fired mortar bombs at Israeli troops spotted inside Gaza's boundary fence, drawing air strikes against a Hamas training camp and other targets. Hamas claimed one of the dead gunmen as its own, and the other was not immediately identified. Two Hamas fighters were wounded.
Though Islamist Hamas is hostile to Israel, it has often sought to stay out of recent cross-border confrontations as it shores up its Gaza rule in the face of more radical challengers and reaches out to potential Arab allies abroad.
The emir of pro-Western Qatar was on Tuesday to become the first head of state to enter the blockaded Palestinian enclave, a high-profile visit opening a crack in Hamas's diplomatic isolation.
Israel's military said the air force struck a Palestinian rocket crew after "a routine (army) patrol in the area" came under mortar attack.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)