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The IDF carried out its second targeted assassination in less than 24 hours, striking at members of Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigade, killing three of them. Half a dozen bystanders were also injured.
Two missiles fired from an aircraft hit a structure in the northern Gaza Strip, reportedly in Beit Lahiya, where the men were preparing more mortar barrages on Israel. The building targeted served as their headquarters as well as a shop where webbing was sewn for military operations, military sources said.
The air force launched three sorties in the space of 20 hours. In the first they fired rockets that killed Mahmoud Akran, a member of the PRC Wednesday night, ending a six-week lull in targeted interceptions. In the second, overnight IAF aircraft bombed what the military said was an access road used by Kassam rocket squads launching rockets into the Western Negev. In the third, Thursday afternoon, they struck at the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade squad.
The military action came following Monday's suicide bombing in Netanya claimed by the Islamic Jihad that killed five Israelis.
The strike killed Iyad Nasser, 27, and Iyad Qaddas, 21, and Khader Riyan hospital officials said. Six others were wounded, including an 11-year-old girl, hospital officials told AP.
An angry crowd gathered at the hospital, demanding revenge.
"This crime will not pass easily and the blood of our fighters will not be spilled in vain," said a spokesman for Al Aksa who goes by the nickname Abu Mohammed.
Palestinian officials condemned the attack and said Israel would bear responsibility for its consequences.
"This Israeli action is going to sabotage the efforts made by the Palestinian Authority to maintain calm and to revive the peace process," Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfik Abu Khoussa said.
IDF sources said Najar had taken the place of Hassan Madhun who was killed by the IDF last month, and had helped plan and execute numerous attacks inside the Gaza Strip and acted as a liaison with the Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas. He was the guiding hand behind mortar and fire into Israel in the past weeks, military sources said.
Qaddas was also taking a larger role in planning attacks for the Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigade and was cultivating links with activists in the West Bank to coordinate terrorist attacks there against Israeli targets, military sources said.
The third terrorist, Khader Riyan, played a key role in recruiting suicide attackers and planning attacks. These include Wafa Idris, the Palestinian woman who was captured trying to slip through Erez Crossing with a bomb she planned to detonate in Beersheba's Soroka hospital where she was undergoing treatment.
Thursday afternoon, a Kassam rocket fell harmlessly in an empty field in Moshav Yesha. It impacted extremely close to a group of farm workers causing them fright.
"This has become a dangerous place," a moshav resident told Israel Radio. "People here are terrified. We've become a target."
Meanwhile, key Hamas member Adnan Asfur was released from prison in Israel on Thursday.
This was Asfur's sixteenth incarceration, Israel Radio reported