Majdi Fathi/Rex/AP

Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinians in Gaza as border tensions rise

The region has seen a noticeable uptick in rocket fire amid Israel’s West Bank crackdown after settlers’ disappearance

An Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the military and Palestinian medical officials said, as nearly nightly attacks on besieged Gaza continued and rocket attacks by armed groups increased after the disappearance of three Israeli settlers and Israel’s subsequent crackdown in the West Bank.

The attack targeted a car traveling near al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, witnesses said. One source identified the men as belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, a network of armed groups that opposes negotiations with Israel and is known for firing rockets into southern Israel. The men were members of al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades.

“The remains of two martyrs killed in an Israeli air raid on a car were taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza,” a spokesman for Gaza’s health services, Ashraf al-Qudra, said. He said the victims were Osama al-Hassumi, 29, and Mohammed Fasih, 24.

The Israeli military said the men were “involved in firing at Israel in recent weeks” and were planning more attacks.

In earlier Israeli strikes, five Palestinians were wounded near the southern section of the Israel-Gaza border, medical officials said. They included an 11-year-old boy who was in serious condition.

The Israeli military said troops near the border it controls had been targeted by an explosive device and tanks responded with “fire towards lookout posts used to guide the attack against the forces.” Qudra said Palestinians were hurt when tanks targeted “two mosque minarets” east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

In past weeks, distrust between Hamas and Israel has been particularly high after the disappearance of three Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Israel’s subsequent security crackdown. Tensions were already heightened after the formation of a Palestinian unity government between Fatah, the party of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, and after Israel’s subsequent withdrawal from U.S.-brokered peace talks.

Meanwhile on Friday, the chief U.S. negotiator for the talks, Martin Indyk, resigned, State Department officials said, after failure to reach an interim agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel has alleged that Hamas is behind the disappearance of the three Israelis, a claim Hamas has denied. On Thursday, Israel named two suspects from Hamas it accused of being involved in the alleged kidnapping.

Israel has sent thousands of soldiers into the occupied West Bank to search for the teens and to “punish” Hamas. The military has arrested hundreds of Palestinians, killed at least eight and wounded dozens more, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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