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Israeli airstrike kills 2 Hamas officers in southern Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY, GAZA (BNO NEWS) -- Israeli forces carried out an airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip on late Wednesday evening, killing two Hamas security officers and injuring a third, Hamas officials said on Thursday. Israel said one of the men was preparing to attack Israeli citizens.

The airstrike targeted a moving vehicle in the al-Janeneh neighborhood east of Rafah, a city in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. The vehicle, which belonged to the interior ministry of Hamas, was carrying three men who were tasked with securing the southern border between Gaza and Egypt.

But a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said two of the men were "terror operatives" affiliated with Defenders of al-Aqsa, a Hamas offshoot dedicated to carrying out attacks against Israeli targets. The spokesperson said one of the men, Anis Abu Mahmoud el-Anin, was in the final stages of preparing to carry out an attack against Israeli civilians.

"Terrorists planned to exit Gaza into Sinai and then enter Israel through our border fence and attack the heart of (the) country during the holidays," the IDF spokesperson said. "Hamas knew what was happening. It collaborates with smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza and does not prevent them from carrying out attacks."

The IDF said Anis Abu Mahmoud el-Anin had been directing "terror activity" in Judea and Samaria for a number of years. "Anis, as part of the activity of 'Defenders of al-Aqsa,' was involved in a number of attempted terror attacks that included smuggling explosive devices into Israel via the Israel-Egypt border," the spokesperson alleged.

The second person who was killed was identified as Ashraf Mahmoud Salah, an alleged member of the Palestinian group the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). "In the past he had admitted, during an investigation, to transferring two terrorists into Egypt in order to carry out a suicide attack in Israel," the IDF said, adding that he was also involved in the purchase and sale of weapons.

The third person in the vehicle was rushed to Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, where he remained in a critical condition. His identity was not immediately known. Hamas officials denied the allegations from Israel, saying the three men were doing their duty in protecting the security of Palestinians.

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