April 2, 2011 / 9:16 AM / 9 years ago

Israeli air strike kills three militants in Gaza

Palestinians carry the body of Hamas militant Ismail Lobad during his funeral in Gaza City April 2, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli aircraft killed three Palestinian gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip Saturday, medical officials and the Israeli army said.

Residents said the planes fired on a car in which the three men were traveling near the town of Khan Younis.

An Israeli military spokesman said the air strike was aimed at “a Hamas terrorist squad planning to kidnap Israelis over the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover.”

Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers, confirmed the men were members of its armed wing, but denied they were planning a kidnapping and threatened reprisal. “The enemy will pay for this assassination crime,” a statement said.

Saturday’s air strike raised to 15 the number of people killed since a flare up of violence last month.

Israel and the Palestinians have signaled a readiness to return to a de facto ceasefire which has kept the border mostly quiet since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell

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