Jerusalem: Israeli aircraft killed three Palestinian militants who were planning to abduct Israelis over the upcoming Jewish festival of Passover, the military said early Saturday.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that an “aircraft had fired at a terror squad of the terror group Hamas that was planning to carry out kidnappings.” She said the group was plotting the attacks for the Jewish festival of Passover later this month.
The group was planning to carry out the attacks in Israel as well as in the popular Egyptian resort of Sinai, she said.
Witnesses said a missile fired from an aircraft hit a car as it was travelling near Gaza City just before 2 am local time.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said three men were killed and another was injured.
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, later issued a statement saying the men killed were Hamas militants. They called the strike “a crime” and vowed revenge.
“We send a simple message to them (Israel)- Don’t try to test our patience, or you will open the gate of fire,” said Hamas spokesman Abu Obeideh.
The armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - a small group that rarely carries out attacks - announced on Saturday it would no longer maintain a cease—fire with Israel.
After months of calm, Gaza militants barraged Israel with rocket and mortar attacks on Israel last month, and Israel’s military retaliated with air strikes. But last weekend, Hamas said it had no interest in a further escalation, and urged militants in Gaza to hold their fire.
The Iranian—backed group has killed hundreds of Israelis in rocket attacks and suicide bombings. Israel, the US and other countries consider Hamas a terror group because of their attacks aimed at civilians.
Gaza militants still hold captive an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, they abducted in a cross—border raid in 2006.
Hamas is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of murdering Israeli civilians, in exchange for Sgt. Schalit. Hamas have banned the Red Cross from seeing Sgt. Schalit and little is known about his condition.
Israel has warned its citizens to refrain from visiting the Sinai, fearing attacks by militants.
There has been a spike in violence along the Gaza—Israel border in recent weeks but both sides have said they want to avoid escalation.