Middle East

Israel kills 2 Hamas militants after Qatari emir leaves Gaza

The Emir of Qatar Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, right, and Gaza's Hamas Prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, third left, arrive for the corner-stone laying ceremony of a new center providing artificial limbs, in Bait Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012.(AP Photo/Ali Ali, Pool)

GAZA: Israel killed two Hamas gunmen in a Gaza Strip air strike on Tuesday which the military said targeted a squad preparing to launch rockets into the Jewish state.

The air force operation followed other Palestinian attacks, including a bomb blast that wounded an Israeli army officer patrolling the Gaza border, on a day that saw the isolated, Hamas-governed enclave receive its first foreign head of state, the emir of Qatar.

Israeli leaders had vowed retaliation for the morning bombing on Gaza's boundary fence, but Israeli television said military actions were put on hold until Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had left. The rich Gulf state has had low-level diplomatic ties with Israel and hosts a major U.S. naval base.

Hamas said two of its gunmen were killed and another wounded in the air strike in northern Gaza. It did not comment on Israel's allegation that they had prepared rocket launches. Six other rockets were fired across the border on Tuesday, the Israeli military said, though causing no damage or casualties.

The border bombing was claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of several small militant factions in Gaza that often operate independent of the dominant Hamas.

Israel's policy is to hold Hamas responsible for any attacks from the territory, which the Islamist group has controlled since 2007. Though hostile to Israel, Hamas has mostly sought to avoid direct clashes as it shores up its rule in the face of more radical challengers and reaches out to potential allies abroad.





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