Israel kills two in Gaza strike targeting "terrorist operative"
By KATE LINTHICUM | Los Angeles Times | Published: January 22, 2014
An Israeli airstrike killed two people in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, including a man identified by Israeli security forces as a militant who fired rockets across the border last week during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the strike targeted a “terrorist operative” named Ahmed Za'anin believed to be behind the rocket attacks, which caused no injuries. According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Za'anin was a member of the armed group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
On its website, Hamas, the faction that controls Gaza, said three rockets were fired at Israel early Wednesday in response to the Israeli attack. It was unclear whether they caused any injuries or damage.
Israel has struck Gaza repeatedly in recent weeks in what it describes as a retaliation campaign for an upsurge of rockets fired into its territory. According to Israeli military officials, Gaza militants have launched at least 17 rockets toward Israel since the beginning of the year.
On Sunday, an Israeli missile strike injured Ahmad Sa'ad, a militant alleged by security forces to have launched five rockets at the Israeli city of Ashkelon last week. Four of the five rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, and the fifth caused no injuries. In addition to Sa'ad, a 12-year-old bystander was wounded in the attack, according to Palestinian medics.
The Israeli army said Sa'ad is a member of an armed group known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad that it blames for the majority of the recent rockets fired from Gaza. Israeli officials have criticized Hamas for not doing enough to curtail rocket fire from rival groups and not holding up the Palestinian end of a cease-fire that went into effect in 2012 after an Israeli siege on Gaza.
Over the last month, four Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in a surge of violence in and around Gaza.
Special correspondent Rushdi abu Alouf contributed to this report from Gaza City.