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Two Palestinians killed in Israeli raid on Gaza

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Two Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad were killed in an Israeli air raid in the Gaza Strip overnight, witnesses and medical sources said Wednesday.

The two victims, Ahmad al Zaaneen, 21, and Mohammed al Zaaneen, 23, died when the car they were travelling in was hit near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, the sources said.

The Israeli army said that "a terrorist involved in recent rocket attacks against Israel" had been the target.

The army added that Zaaneen had been a key figure in the far-left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and had been involved in the firing of rockets during the burial this month of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Hours before the Israeli raid on Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to teach Gaza's ruling Hamas movement a lesson "very soon" following a surge in militant rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

"We have a very clear policy. We prevent terror attacks when we identify them in the making, and we respond forcefully against whoever hurts us," Netanyahu told reporters at a press conference with his visiting Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

"This policy produced a quiet year in 2013, which was the quietest in many years. If Hamas and the terror organisations have forgotten this lesson, they will learn it again powerfully very soon."

His warning was issued shortly after Hamas said it had deployed forces in Gaza to "preserve the truce" following an uptick of rocket fire on Israel.

Over the past month, tensions have risen in and around Gaza after more than a year of relative calm following a major Israeli confrontation with Hamas in November 2012.

Since December 20, six Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed in violence in and around Gaza, with militant rocket fire sparking retaliatory air strikes by Israel.

Army figures show eight rockets have struck Israeli territory since January 1, and another five were intercepted by the "Iron Dome" anti-missile system, sparking fears that a new confrontation with Gaza militants is looming.

Militants fired at least one rocket at southern Israel late on Monday which caused neither casualties nor damage.

Another rocket at the weekend prompted an air strike on Gaza City on Sunday, which wounded two Palestinians, one critically. The military said it had targeted a senior Islamic Jihad militant.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140121/two-palestinians-killed-israeli-raid-gaza