Israeli missile strike in Gaza kills two Palestinian gunmen

GAZA (Reuters) - An Israeli missile strike blew up a car in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, residents and hospital officials said, killing two men from a Palestinian faction blamed for a surge of cross-border rocket attacks.

Israel did not immediately confirm carrying out the strike in Beit Hanoun, which followed a vow by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to take preemptive action against any threats from the Hamas-governed coastal enclave.

Palestinian residents and hospital residents identified the two dead gunmen as members of Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction than Hamas which has sometimes chafed against its efforts to preserve a ceasefire with Israel.

The men, both from the same Al-Za'anin family, were sitting in a parked car when it was hit by the missile, residents said.

On Sunday, another missile strike wounded a Gaza man linked by Israel to cross-border rockets salvoes. Israel said those attacks, which hurt no one but caused consternation in towns outside Gaza, were the work of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.

Wednesday's air strike could complicate efforts by Egypt, a frequent mediator between Israel and Gaza, to talk Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other Palestinian factions into a truce.

After a stretch of unusual quiet around Gaza, there have been some 20 Palestinian rocket or mortar launches over the last month, Israel says.

"We have a very clear policy of foiling terrorist attacks when we identify their forming and of responding firmly to those who harm us," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

"This policy has yielded a quiet year in 2013, the quietest year in many, and if Hamas and the terrorist organizations have forgotten this lesson then they will learn it, with great force, in the near future."

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)