An Israeli air strike killed the Palestinian leader of an al-Qaida-affiliated group in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Hamas and medical sources said.
The air force launched an air strike on Saturday night on members of a Palestinian jihadi organization that fired a rocket into southern Israel over the weekend – and which were planning terror attacks on Israel – the IDF said.
Palestinian medical sources said two men riding a motorcycle in northern Gaza were reportedly killed in the strike.
The interior ministry of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, said one of the men killed was Hisham Al-Saedni, also known as Abu Al-Waleed Al-Maqdissi, believed to head the Jihadist Salafi group Tawhid and Jihad (One God and Holy War).
The group, rival to Hamas, has an Islamist ideology shared by al-Qaida and sources have said that Saedni joined al-Qaida in Iraq at the beginning of the US-led invasion in 2003.
In March 2011 Hamas detained Saedni for 17 months and had freed him in August.
Last year members identifying themselves with Tawhid and Jihad kidnapped and killed a pro-Palestinian Italian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, in an apparent attempt to secure the release of Saedni.
An Israeli military spokesman could not confirm Saedni was the target of the air strike. A written military statement said the two men targeted were "terror operatives of the Shora Council of the Mujahideen, a Gaza-based Global Jihad affiliate." The same group had claimed responsibility for a rocket that was fired into Israel on Friday and landed near a house in the Israeli town of Netivot, causing damage but no casualties.
An army source said the cell was involved in past terrorist attacks on Israel, and was in the last stages of preparing another attack.
Friday’s rocket attack triggered air raid sirens in the town, sending residents running for cover, before exploding in the backyard of a family home. The projectile sent shrapnel flying into the home, piercing the walls of the building’s walls, including a boy’s bedroom. One civilian was treated for shock and then taken to the hospital, Negev police said.
“What if the child would have been there [in his room]?” the IDF Spokesman’s Office asked on its official Twitter account.
A few hours after the rocket attack, the air force responded by striking three terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Friday.
Two of the targets were in central Gaza and the third was in the north of the Strip, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.
Palestinian medical sources said there were no injuries in those strikes.
Saturday’s attacks came after an escalation in Palestinian rocket fire on southern towns. The Israel Air Force struck a terrorist center in the northern part of the Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday, in response to continued rocket fire from the coastal territory. The IAF targeted a training camp belonging to Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing. No injuries were reported.
Earlier on Wednesday, Palestinian terrorists had fired rockets which exploded in the western Negev – two rockets hit in Sderot and two in Netivot, all struck in open areas. No injuries or damage were reported.
The IAF also hit terrorist tunnels in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, following several rockets fired earlier that day at the Negev.
On Monday, the IDF struck targets in Gaza from the air and land in response to more than 30 rockets and mortar shells that Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired at farming districts in the South.
Jerusalem Post Staff, Reuters and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.