Motorcyclist killed in first Israeli air strike on Gaza since November truce

Attack that hit 'top militant' is most serious test yet of the Egyptian-brokered truce

An Israeli aircraft attacked a motorcycle in Gaza today, killing a man who the military said was a top militant in a shadowy al-Qa'ida-influenced group who had been involved in a recent rocket attack on southern Israel.

It was the first deadly air strike in Gaza since a truce was reached with Palestinian militants last November, and is the most serious test yet of the Egyptian-brokered agreement.

The strike came alongside the fatal stabbing of an Israeli settler in the West Bank, the first killing by a Palestinian of an Israeli in the territory in over a year.

The aircraft hit the motorcycle as it was traveling northwest of Gaza City, killing the driver and wounding a passenger. A bystander was also wounded, according to Gaza medical officials.

The Israeli military said it had successfully killed Haitham Mishal, describing him as a jihadi militant involved in an April 17 rocket attack on the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat and other violence. Ashraf al-Kidra, Gaza's Health Ministry spokesman, said Mishal was a policeman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned in recent days that Israel would not tolerate rocket fire from either the Gaza Strip or Egypt's Sinai Desert.

"We hit today one of those involved in the despicable rocket fire on Eilat. I said that we would not be quiet over that," Netanyahu said Tuesday. "We do not accept sporadic rocket fire from Gaza or Sinai. We will act to protect the citizens of Israel, and we are acting."

Today's air strike may strain a five-month-old cease fire brokered by Egypt last November that ended eight days of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas. Under the deal, Gaza militants pledged to halt rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel said it would end its policy of assassinating wanted militants.

But after months of calm, the truce has begun to unravel. Palestinian militants have sporadically fired rockets into open areas of southern Israel in recent weeks. The Israeli air force has responded with strikes on training sites and suspected weapons storage sites in Gaza. Until Tuesday, there had been no casualties.

In a statement, the Israeli military said Mishal had been involved in the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, a murky al-Qa'ida-inspired group that has claimed responsibility for a number of rocket attacks, including the Eilat incident.

Israel viewed the rocket attack on Eilat, a normally tranquil oasis that borders the Red Sea and Egypt's Sinai desert, as an escalation. It accused Gaza militants of firing the rockets, which caused no injuries, out of Egypt's lawless Sinai desert.

It said Mishal "has been a key terror figure, specializing in weapons and working with all of the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip." It said he manufactured weapons and specialized in rockets and explosive devices that he sold to militant groups.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, condemned the Israeli attack but also signaled that it is eager to preserve the truce.

"We call on Egypt to put pressure on the Israeli occupation to stop these crimes and to force them to honor the truce and stop the aggression," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. He called for a "joint and unified" effort by Gaza's various militant factions.

Hamas considers the jihadi groups responsible for recent rocket fire to be rivals, and has struggled to keep them in check. Since the cease-fire was reached, Hamas has deployed security forces along the border areas with Israel and Egypt to help preserve the calm.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, a Palestinian man fatally stabbed an Israeli waiting at a bus stop and fired on police before he was detained by Israeli security forces, officials said.

The victim was identified as a 32-year-old man from a nearby West Bank settlement. The attack took place at an intersection in the northern West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the assailant stabbed the Israeli and took his gun, then opened fire at border police nearby. The officers returned fire, wounding the Palestinian who was then detained. The Israeli man died of his wounds at the scene, Rosenfeld said.

Netanyahu latter expressed sorrow over the stabbing. "The terrorist who committed this murder was captured and we will continue to operate on that front to protect our citizens," he said.

A militant group claiming affiliation with the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, movement took responsibility for the stabbing attack in notices posted on the Internet.

The group said it had "received a green light to begin a series of operations against the (Israeli) occupiers" in response to the deaths of two Palestinians in Israeli jail earlier this year. Abbas, an outspoken critic of violence, did not immediately comment.

The stabbing was the first fatal attack on Israelis in the West Bank since September 2011. But Capt. Barak Raz, a military spokesman, said the area has experienced a rise in rock throwing and firebombing in recent months. A baby Israeli girl was seriously injured earlier this year when Palestinians threw rocks at the car she was traveling in. Palestinians charge that some settlers, particularly in smaller remote hilltop communities, are behind a series of attacks against Palestinians and their property.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, for a future independent state.

But peace talks between Israel and Abbas have remained frozen for more than four years, while divisions between Abbas and his Hamas rivals, who seized Gaza from his forces in 2007, have further hindered peace efforts.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches