Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, center, leads prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha in central Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 (Photo: AP)
An Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip killed a Hamas militant and wounded another early Sunday, after they fired mortar shells at Israeli tanks on an incursion near the southern town of Khan Younes, Palestinian medics and eyewitnesses told AFP.
Palestinians named the dead man as Kamel Qarara, 25, a member of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Gaza's ruling Islamist Hamas movement. The wounded man, not immediately named, was said to also be a member of the Brigades.
An Israeli military statement confirmed a strike by the Israel Air Force but not the allegation that Israeli armour had entered the Palestinian territory and come under Palestinian fire.
"IAF aircraft targeted a rocket launching site and squad in the central Gaza Strip, during final preparations to fire a rocket towards southern Israel," it said. "Secondary explosions were identified," it added, implying that ammunition or explosives were hit.
The exchange took place after a three-day lull between the sides brought some respite from a latest spike in cross-border fighting
The statement said that so far during the course of October alone Palestinians have fired more than 150 rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Late on Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian officials announced an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire after a 24-hour peak in bloodshed, which saw Israeli air strikes kill four militants and armed groups firing more than 70 rockets and mortars across the border, seriously wounding two Thai workers.
Since then, as Palestinians celebrated the Eid el-Adha Muslim festival, the Israel military reported one rocket falling on open ground in southern Israel and causing no casualties. A militant died on Thursday of wounds sustained in an Israeli raid a day earlier, before the truce.
The ceasefire agreement was aimed at ending an eruption of violence which began on Monday morning when two militants were killed in twin air strikes on north Gaza which were launched as armed groups fired at Israeli troops who had crossed the border.
A third militant died later in the day in disputed circumstances, with the Palestinians blaming another air strike and Israel saying it had not staged any raid.
On Tuesday morning, several hours before a top-level visit by the emir of Qatar, an Israeli soldier was severely wounded by a roadside bomb during a routine patrol along the fence in central Gaza in an attack claimed by militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
After a few hours of quiet, militants fired six rockets over the border, and in response Israeli aircraft killed two Hamas militants in raids on northern Gaza, prompting a further wave of rocket fire. On Wednesday morning, an early strike on the southern city of Rafah killed a PRC militant and seriously wounded another.
And later in the day, medics said another Hamas militant died of wounds sustained in one of the Tuesday evening raids.
Under mounting public pressure, the Israeli government is to discuss at its weekly meeting on Sunday a programme to increase blastproofing of homes and public buildings in the area adjoining the border with Gaza.