Three Palestinians were killed Saturday afternoon in an Israel Air Force air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.

Family members of the three men killed, identified them as an employee of a Jordanian bank, a former government employee, and a student.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the air strike, but said it targeted Palestinian militants on their way to fire mortar shells at Israel.

The air strike came a day after an Israeli missile killed two Palestinian militants and wounded a third in central Gaza, according to Palestinian medical staff and Hamas security officials.

The Hamas officials, who did not wish to be named, said the militants were members of the Islamic Jihad group who were on foot east of the Maghazi refugee camp when they were targeted.

The militants had been posted in central Gaza near the Israeli border to observe army movements, Islamic Jihad said.

An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman confirmed an air strike had been carried out against "terror elements" in the Gaza Strip.

Israel frequently carries out missile strikes and raids against militants in the Gaza Strip in what it says is an effort to stop them launching rockets into southern Israeli towns and planting bombs along the border that target IDF soldiers.