Palestinian residents said the dead men belonged to Islamic Jihad,
an armed faction that has sometimes defied efforts by the Gaza
Strip's Hamas government to keep truces with Israel.
Islamic Jihad claimed one man, Ahmed Al-Za'anin, as its own, without
immediately commenting on the other's affiliation.
But Israel's military, confirming the air strike in Beit Hanoun,
said Za'anin was a former Islamic Jihad member who had joined the
more secular Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The
PFLP did not immediately respond.
Za'anin had carried out numerous attacks, the military said,
including the launch of rockets into southern Israel as Sharon was
being buried there last week in a ceremony attended by U.S. Vice
President Joe Biden and other foreign dignitaries.
There were no casualties in that salvo.
Za'anin and the second gunman, his relative, were sitting in a
parked car when it was hit by the missile, locals said.
On Sunday, an air strike wounded a Gaza man linked by Israel to
other rockets launches last week. Israel said those attacks, which
hurt no one but caused consternation in towns outside Gaza, were the
work of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.
Wednesday's air strike could complicate efforts by Egypt, a frequent
mediator between Israel and Gaza, to talk Islamic Jihad, Hamas and
other Palestinian factions into a truce.
[to top of second column]
After a stretch of unusual quiet around Gaza, there have been some
20 Palestinian rocket or mortar launches over the last month, Israel
says. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed preemptive
action against such threats.
"We have a very clear policy of foiling terrorist attacks when we
identify their forming and of responding firmly to those who harm
us," he said in Jerusalem.
"This policy has yielded a quiet year in 2013, the quietest year in
many, and if Hamas and the terrorist organizations have forgotten
this lesson then they will learn it, with great force, in the near
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Catherine Evans)
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