GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli warplanes bombed tunnels beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Saturday killing two Palestinians, after militants fired several mortars at Israel from the coastal territory, medical workers said.
Medical workers who reached the area hours after the attacks said they had recovered the bodies of two Palestinian men involved in digging the subterranean passages Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The men were the first fatalities in Israeli-Palestinian violence since early March when an Israeli missile killed a Palestinian militant Israel said was preparing to launch a rocket.
An Israeli military spokesman said Saturday’s strikes targeted three tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip near the town of Rafah, along the Egyptian border.
Israel had resumed aerial attacks on Friday on the tunnels after a nearly two-month hiatus in fighting, after a rocket fired from Gaza struck inside Israel.
Israel said three mortars were fired at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, causing no casualties. The Palestinian Resistance Committees, a militant group in Gaza, claimed it had fired the mortars on Saturday.
Militant rocket fire had dropped significantly since Egypt began efforts to consolidate the Jan. 18 truce that ended Israel’s 22-day offensive against Gaza’s Islamic militants.
Israel launched its war on the territory controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement in late December, with the aim of halting cross-border rocket and mortar attacks on the Jewish state by armed militant groups.
A Palestinian human rights organisation says 1,417 people were killed, of whom 926 were civilians. The Israeli military says the death toll was 1,166 of whom 295 were civilians.