The Islamic militant group Hamas vowed vengeance against Israel in a statement Saturday, following a late-night airstrike which hit three members of the Gaza-ruling militant group.
Earlier Saturday, IDF planes attacked a cell of Palestinian militants in the south of the Gaza Strip, with Palestinian sources confirming that three men were killed in the attack.
An IDF Spokesperson stated that the three men killed in Gaza were members of a terrorist cell that was "planning to kidnap Israelis over the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover" in Israel and in the Sinai Peninsula, a popular spring tourist destination for Israelis.
A statement by the Iz a Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, identified one of those killed as one of the group's senior commanders, vowing to strike back at Israel.
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." The militant group also called on the U.S. to stop the flow of financial aid to Israel.
The Palestinian Ma'an news agency identified the three as Isma’il Labad and his brother Abdullah from Ash-Shati' refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, and military commander Muhammad Ad-Dayah from the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City.
Ad-Dayah, 33, is considered to be a top Hamas military official. As child he participated in the first intifada, later serving as the bodyguard of former Hamas chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Ad-Dayah also lost one of his eyes during an attempted mortar attack on a nearby settlement.
The Hamas official had already been the target of an IDF assassination attempt, when his house was bombed by Israeli jets during Operation Cast Lead in early 2009.
In recent weeks, Palestinian militants have fired rocket salvoes into the country, reaching as far as Be'er Sheva, and Israel has carried out a series of air strikes.
Despite the spike in violence along the Gaza-Israel border of late, both Israeli officials and Hamas representatives have said that they want to avoid an escalation at this time.
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