GAZA: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, raising to six the number killed in the past 12 hours, medical sources said.
"We have received three bodies," said Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Hamas-run health ministry, saying the three had been killed by an Israeli tank shell just east of the town of Beit Hanun.
Qudra said the three were civilians. He said two were brothers -- Akram al-Zaanin, 22, and Ihab al-Zaanin, 23. He said the third -- Tareq al-Kafarna, 26 -- was on his way to work at Beit Hanun hospital when the shell struck.
The Israeli army said it had fired at a "terrorist squad that was planting an explosive device near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. A hit was confirmed," a statement said, indicating that they were targeted by "aircraft, the armored corps and infantry soldiers."
The incident occurred 11 hours after an Israeli air strike on a car in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza killed three civilians and seriously wounded a fourth person.
A military spokeswoman said the strike targeted "a group of terrorists who were preparing to fire rockets at Israel from the centre of the Gaza Strip."
Over the past week, Palestinian militants have stepped up rocket fire on southern Israel, causing damage but no casualties.
Hardline Islamist members of a Salafist group have claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.
Despite an informal truce between Hamas and Israel, tensions flare periodically on the Gaza-Israel border, with militants firing rockets at Israel and the military launching retaliatory air strikes.
The last major flare-up was in June, when militants fired more than 150 rockets at southern Israel, wounding five people, and Israel hit back with air strikes that killed 15 Palestinians.