Middle East

Gaza: Hamas militants killed in Israeli air strike

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Media captionHundreds of Palestinians in Gaza marched in funeral processions for the three men

The Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, has warned Israel of "consequences" after an air strike in Gaza killed three members of its military wing.

The Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades militants were killed near the southern town of Khan Younis, a statement said.

Medics and witnesses said the men had been travelling in a car at the time, and that one person was also injured.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said it was a pre-emptive strike against militants planning to kidnap Israelis.

The "terror squad" was plotting attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and in Israel during the Jewish festival of Passover later this month, she added.

Sinai is a popular destination for Israelis during the week-long holiday.

Militants in Gaza are still holding the Israeli soldier Sgt Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid in 2006. Hamas is demanding hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are freed in return for his release.

'Serious escalation'

The missile hit the militants' car as it was travelling between Khan Younis and the Deir al-Balah refugee camp, south of Gaza City, just before 0200 on Friday (2300 GMT on Thursday), witnesses said.

Image caption The militants were driving between Khan Younis and the Deir al-Balah refugee camp

Three charred bodies were later pulled from the vehicle, they added.

Medical officials said one Palestinian was also wounded in the strike.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, described the strike as a crime and "serious escalation" of the recent violence, and vowed that Israel would "bear all the consequences".

There has been a spike in violence along the Gaza-Israel border in recent weeks, but both sides have said they want to avoid a major confrontation.