GAZA - The two Gaza militants killed by Israel on Saturday were the most senior al-Qaida affiliates in the Palestinian enclave, and one had links to jihadi networks in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, sources said on Sunday.
Hisham al-Saedni and Ashraf al-Sabah, who were killed by an air strike as they rode a motorcycle, were ultra-conservative Salafi Islamists.
Armed Salafis, while a fringe presence in Gaza, have been stepping up violence against Israel while at times clashing with the Palestinian Hamas government. They also operate in the neighboring Egyptian Sinai.
Saedni and Sabah were leaders, respectively, of the Tawhid wa-Jihad and Ansar Al-Sunna groups, two Salafi sources said. The movements share al-Qaida's vision of global jihad and opposed the more pragmatic Islamism espoused by Hamas and Cairo's politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood.
The men had recently merged their groups to form the umbrella Majles Shoura Al-Mujahideen (Holy Warriors' Guidance Council), the sources said, becoming the de facto heads of the diffuse Gaza jihadi network.