An Israeli air raid in central Gaza killed at least two people and wounded others, Palestinian medical and security sources said.
Israel said that one of them had planned a deadly bombing in Eilat in 2007 and that both had been planning another attack on southern Israel by infiltrating from the Sinai peninsula, according to a statement by the Israeli military said.
“These terrorists were both affiliated with a terrorist squad that intended to execute a terrorist attack against Israeli civilians and Israeli Defense Forces soldiers via the western border,” the statement said.
The military said it had targeted Issam al-Batsh, a senior member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed off-shoot of the Fatah movement, “as well as an additional terrorist.”
Palestinian security sources said the attack was carried out by an Israeli drone which reportedly targeted a car in Gaza City, killing the two men and injuring four others, medics said.
“The remains of two Palestinians were brought to Shifa hospital in Gaza City and two others were injured in the raid, which targeted a civilian car,” medical sources told AFP.
Later in Gaza, officials confirmed Batsh was killed in the attack, along with a second man, Sobhi al-Batsh, a member of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.
Israel said Issam al-Batsh had been involved in “numerous” attacks in which Gaza militants had infiltrated Israel through the Sinai.
“One such attack was the suicide bombing in Eilat (January 2007), in which three Israeli civilians were killed. In recent years, a number of Batsh's attempted attacks were thwarted,” it said.
The strike came a day after Israeli warplanes carried out twin raids targeting what the military said was a Palestinian militant cell planning to launch rockets into Israel.
The strikes killed one Palestinian militant and wounded two others in an area east of the Zeitun neighborhood, the Islamic Jihad movement said.
Israel frequently targets militants it says are about to launch rockets into the Jewish state, or bombs Gaza in response to such rocket fire, but it also carries out targeted attacks against members of Gaza militant groups.
On Sept. 7, an Israeli air strike against a car travelling near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza killed a member of the Quds Bridge, Islamic Jihad's military wing.
Meanwhile, Israel has approved construction of a new Jewish enclave in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, state-owned Channel One TV reported Wednesday.
The channel said the 14-home project, to be named Maale David, was approved late Wednesday by the Jerusalem city council’s planning committee and was likely to spark fresh international condemnation of Israel’s settlements policy.
It is to be sited in the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, near an existing Jewish settlement of 1,000 people, the report said.
“By this decision the committee is throwing oil on the flames... encouraging the settlers (and) their very explosive and problematic presence in this neighborhood,” Yudith Oppenheimer, of Israeli NGO Ir Amim which lobbies for co-existence in Jerusalem, told the channel.
“We condemn this Israeli step very strongly,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP, adding a call for international support for a Palestinian appeal to the U.N. security council to intervene against the settlement.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Thursday that further Israeli settlement building threatens the chances of securing peace in the region during a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
A palace statement issued after the meeting also said the king plans to visit the United States, but the timing of the trip was not specified.
“Continued Israeli settlement building undermines peace opportunities that would end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the statement quoted the king as telling Abbas.
“Palestine is still the central cause despite the current regional developments,” the king said, referring to Arab Spring revolts that have swept the Middle East and toppled three autocratic leaders.
Jordan is a key U.S. ally and has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
U.S. disapointment over settlements
The United States, meanwhile, said on Thursday that it was “disappointed” by Israeli settlement activity after the approval of construction of a new Jewish enclave in annexed east Jerusalem.
However, the U.S. State Department also said that it opposed a call by the Palestinians to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council, where Washington in February vetoed an earlier resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
“We’re disappointed by recent announcements in Jerusalem and we’ve raised this issue with the Israeli government and continue to make our concerns about it known,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
“As we’ve said, we don’t believe that there’s any answers that lie in pursuing a path through the UN for the Palestinian Authority. The only way to reach their goal of an independent state is through the negotiating table.
“Neither of these activities get us to where we need to go,” Toner said of settlements and United Nations resolutions.
On Wednesday, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization decided to seek a Security Council meeting on the issue, Erakat said.
“The Palestinian leadership has decided ... to go urgently to the Security Council to stop these settlement plans, which aim to prevent the implementation of the two-state solution,” he said.
“We took the decision to begin preparing a Security Council resolution to stop these practices,” he added. He said “consultations” with the council would begin immediately.
Last month, the Israeli housing ministry invited tenders for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev, two settlement neighborhoods in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, as part of a response to a successful Palestinian bid to join UNESCO.
On November 1, Israel’s inner cabinet decided to speed up construction of homes for Jews in Arab east Jerusalem and in other nearby settlements to punish the Palestinians for joining the U.N. agency a day earlier.
The initiative brought protest from the Palestinians and statements of concern from the international community.
Israeli construction of settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank remains one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, scuppering direct negotiations that began in September 2010 and ground to a halt shortly afterwards when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze ended.
In May this year, the speaker of Israel’s parliament and two ministers attended the dedication of a previous batch of Jewish settler homes at Ras al-Amud, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound and close to the centre of east Jerusalem.
The international community has repeatedly called on Israel to stop new building projects in east Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed shortly afterwards.