Three Hamas members killed in IAF strike in Gaza
A Palestinian militant of the Ezzedine al-Qassam brigade. [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images]
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Three members of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades military wing died Friday after an Israeli airstrike targeted a village in the southern Gaza Strip.
Their bodies were found dismembered after the strike, a Ma'an reporter said. He identified them as Mohammad al-Qassas, Mohammad Dawoud, and Khalid Abu Bakra.
Ambulances were able to reach the area to pick up the bodies once Israeli forces withdrew about an hour and a half after the airstrike.
On Thursday, a young man was killed and another wounded in separate Israeli artillery shelling east of Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
Medics said a 22-year-old man died and another was injured after the two were targeted by Israeli forces in the Absan area east of Khan Younis.
Locals said that ambulances brought the body and the injured man to the hospital.
Palestinian officials said all were local commanders of Hamas' military wing.
The Israeli military said fighting erupted when an explosive device went off as troops were clearing a tunnel from the Gaza Strip into Israel, allegedly to be used as a springboard for militant attacks.
During the operation, Hamas targeted the Israeli soldiers with an explosive device, wounding five of them, it said in a statement.
In response, "the soldiers opened fire and directly hit a terrorist" and Israeli warplanes struck "an additional terror tunnel located in the southern Gaza Strip," it said.
No Palestinian casualties were reported in that strike.
During the exchange, Hamas TV said, three mortar shells were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
The Israeli army reported only one, which it said fell in an open field, causing no injury or damage.
The military said the initial target was a section of tunnel into Israel uncovered last month.
"This mission was imperative due to the potential to utilize the terror tunnel for future attacks against Israeli civilians," the statement quoted spokesman Peter Lerner as saying.
The al-Qassam Brigades said on Oct. 20 that it dug the tunnel as part of a plan to capture Israeli soldiers and hold them in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
"We are working on the ground and under the ground to release the prisoners" held by Israel, the group's spokesman Abu Obeida said at the time.
In June 2006 a group of Hamas and other militants sneaked into Israel through a cross-border tunnel, seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and took their prisoner back to Gaza the same way.
He was released on Oct. 18, 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.