GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes killed a local commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and wounded two militants who launched rockets at Israel, despite a two-day-old truce, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
An Israeli military statement said an attack targeted a militant in the Gaza town of Rafah accused of involvement in weapons smuggling and militant operations in Egypt’s Sinai from where gunmen snuck into Israel killing eight last week.
Palestinian medics said the militant died when his car exploded as a result of the strike. Two other people were wounded. A separate Israeli strike wounded two other gunmen who were launching rockets at Israel, the military said.
The violence disrupted a ceasefire agreed on Monday by Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza after five days of intense cross-border violence, following the deadly attacks on an Israeli bus and motorists on Thursday.
Israel struck back at the time, killing seven gunmen at the border with Egypt in fighting in which five Egyptian security personnel were killed, sparking the Jewish state’s first crisis with Egypt’s rulers since the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Initial findings of an investigation Israel began after Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv, showed Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire with Egyptian troops after entering Egyptian territory to chase after 12 gunmen who carried out the deadly attacks, the Haaretz newspaper said.
There was no immediate official comment available on the report in Wednesday’s edition, which said as well that at least some of the gunmen had worn brown uniforms similar to those of Egyptian troops.
During Israel’s counter-assault, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at the gunmen and fired machine guns, killing an Egyptian commander and two other officers. Two more Egyptian troops died later, the Israeli newspaper said.
Gunfire also struck an Egyptian military vehicle during the clashes, but it was not immediately clear who fired those shots, the report added.
Israel also killed another 15 Palestinians in a series of retaliatory air strikes in Gaza after the gun attacks, among them the commander of a militant group it blamed for the border assaults, which denied any involvement.
An Israeli man was killed later by one of 150 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza afterwards at the weekend.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ari Rabinovitch