Israel Air Raid Kills 2 Gazans, Hamas Fires Rockets

An Israeli air strike killed two Palestinian teenagers near the central Gaza Strip town of Deir el-Balah early on Tuesday, a Palestinian medical official said.

Hamas made a rare claim of responsibility for four rockets which were later fired in to Israel

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — An Israeli air strike killed two Palestinian teenagers near the central Gaza Strip town of Deir el-Balah early on Tuesday, a Palestinian medical official said.

"Two citizens were killed in an Israeli air strike," the official said. "The bodies were only recovered this morning when an ambulance could get to the scene."

It was not immediately clear if they were the same two who were earlier reported wounded or additional casualties.

Hospital staff named the dead youths as Mohammed Bassem Abu Mealiq and Yusef al-Talbani, both 17. Witnesses said they had been trying to breach the fence bordering Israel when they were hit.

Two men were earlier reported as injured in the strike, shortly after midnight (2100 GMT).

The Israeli military confirmed hitting what it called a "terrorist squad identified handling an explosive device" near the security fence in the central Gaza Strip.

Four rockets were later fired into southern Israel's Hof Ashkelon district, with the military wing of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and generally maintains a tacit truce with Israel, making a rare claim of responsibility.

Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the Islamist movement's military wing, said it fired the rockets in response to "Israel's crimes."

On Monday, Israeli aircraft killed four Palestinians in two sorties over the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun and wounded at least three, Palestinian medics said.

Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said one of those killed was a member of the group.

The military said he was part of "a terrorist squad attempting to fire a rocket at Israel."

On Monday afternoon, the army said, a rocket was fired from Gaza into the Hof Ashkelon area and another fell at night. "Altogether six rockets were fired in the past 24 hours," a spokeswoman told AFP on Tuesday morning.

Monday's strikes came hours after gunmen mounted an early morning deadly ambush along Israel's southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian construction worker. Two of the gunmen were shot dead by Israeli troops.

An Israeli military source insisted however that Monday's air strikes were not related to the ambush.

Israeli media commentators on Tuesday said the ambush was a further symptom of the Sinai peninsula's descent into lawlessness since last year's overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

"It isn't the same Egypt, it isn't the same border, the peace accords are on their deathbed and we had better change our operating disc," Alex Fishman wrote in top-selling Yediot Aharonot, referring to the two states' 1979 peace treaty.

"We would do well to stop with the word games, to stop saying that there were terror attacks in Sinai when Mubarak was in power as well, and to get used to the fact that the entire length of Israel's southern border is a hostile border, a confrontation border," he added.

In Israel Hayom daily, considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yoav Limor was gloomier still.

"We have to get used to it: the western border has become a war border. True, with Egypt we still have (cold) peace, but a gulf of hatred and a buffer of terrorism separate us," he wrote.

Israeli media reported that workmen were on Tuesday back at the scene of the border attack as well as at other construction sites.