GAZA CITY, GAZA —
Israel killed two Palestinian security officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Wednesday, accusing both of involvement in attacks on Israel and weapons smuggling from Egypt.
Officials with the Hamas Islamist group said the airstrike on a vehicle after dark in the town of Rafah on Gaza's border with Egypt killed two officials in control of tunnels leading into Egyptian territory.
After initially saying three had been killed, Hamas later corrected the death toll to two and said the third man had been critically wounded.
The Israeli military said it had targeted what it called "terror operatives" involved in smuggling explosives into Gaza from neighboring Egypt, and in ferrying suicide bombers into Egypt which they planned to use as a base to attack Israel.
Hamas accused Israel of having "assassinated" security officers whose job it was to oversee tunnels used to bring goods to and from Gaza via Egypt.
Israel accuses Hamas of using these subterranean conduits to smuggle in weapons used to attack the Jewish state, and frequently aims aerial fire at militants in Gaza in response to rocket attacks on its southern towns.
Hamas has for months taken a backseat role in violence while other Iranian-backed groups have stepped up fire into the Jewish state.
But Israel holds Iranian-backed Hamas responsible for security in the Gaza territory, which the Islamists seized in 2007 from the Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas, who remains the Palestinian leader in the occupied West Bank.
Last week Israel killed six Gaza gunmen. Three were suspected of firing short-range missiles at an Israeli town, and three of planting explosives at the border.
The Israeli military identified one of the men it targeted on Wednesday as a member of a "terrorist group sponsored by Hamas" and charged he had been "in the final stages of preparing to carry out a terror attack against Israeli civilians."
Israel said the man had been involved in operations "that included smuggling explosive devices into Israel via the Israel-Egypt border."
A second man targeted was a militant involved in smuggling "two terrorists into Egypt in order to carry out a suicide attack in Israel" and purchasing weapons, Israel said.
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