December 30, 2011 / 7:43 AM / in 6 years

Israeli air strike kills leader of al Qaeda affiliate in Gaza

GAZA, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Israel killed the leader of an al Qaeda-inspired faction in an air strike on the Gaza Strip on Friday, accusing him of launching short-range rockets into the Jewish state.

Militants identified the man as Momen Abu Daf of the Army of Islam, part of a loose network of Palestinian groups that profess allegiance to al Qaeda and which have been reinforced by radical Salafi volunteers from neighbouring Egypt.

Abu Daf was killed when a missile hit Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood, the Hamas administration said. Five other Palestinians were wounded and one of them needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

In a statement, the Israeli military said its aircraft “targeted a terrorist squad that was identified moments before firing rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip”.

Those militants, the statement said, were “responsible for the firing of rockets at Israel in the past few days”.

Salafis attack Israel in defiance of truce efforts by Hamas, which practices a more politically accommodating Islamism though it also preaches the destruction of Israel.

Israeli forces killed another Salafi militant, Abdallah Telbani, on Tuesday, saying he was helping prepare strikes in which militants would circumvent the fortified Gaza border by attacking southern Israel from the Egyptian Sinai.

Israel has been on high alert for such raids since losing eight of its citizens to armed infiltrators on Egypt’s porous frontier in August. Israeli troops repelling those gunmen killed five Egyptian border guards, fraying strategic ties with Cairo.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said two short-range rockets were launched from Gaza on Thursday and five on Wednesday. There was no word of damage or casualties from the salvoes. (Reporting by Saleh Salem Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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