GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces on Wednesday attacked a group of suspected Palestinian militants believed to have been planting a bomb along Gaza's border with the Jewish state, the Israeli military said. Palestinian officials said that one person was killed and three injured.
Gaza's militant Hamas rulers said the victims were all civilians and threatened retaliation, raising the prospect of a new exchange of attacks across the volatile border.
Ihab Ghussein, spokesman for Hamas' Interior Ministry, called the strike a "desperate attempt" by Israel. "The Ministry of Interior and all its security forces are ready to deal with any new escalation," he said.
The Israeli military said aircraft and tanks participated in the attack after the militants were spotted along the border. "An explosion was identified, originating from the explosive device the terrorists attempted to plant," it said.
Gaza's Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said one man was killed and three were wounded, one critically. He did not know whether the victims were civilians or militants, but relatives of the dead man said he had been unarmed.
Hamas, a militant group that opposes peace with Israel, has controlled Gaza since taking over the territory from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
Israel and Hamas have largely honored a truce since a fierce Israeli military offensive in Gaza three years ago. But smaller militant groups continue to battle Israel along the border, and fire rockets into southern Israel.
Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the seaside strip.
Josef Federman contributed reporting from Jerusalem.