Israel military says airstrike kills Gaza militant

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 2:06 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- A senior member of a group identified with al-Qaida died in a fiery car explosion set off by an Israeli airstrike Wednesday, Israel's military said.

The military said the target was Mohammed Namnam, 25, of the Army of Islam group. A military statement asserted that the Army of Islam is tied to al-Qaida and world jihad, but Palestinians said it does not have a direct, operational connection with Osama bin Laden's group.

The military said Namnam was involved in attacks against Israelis, and recently "Namnam was involved with directing a terror attack against American and Israeli targets in the (Egyptian) Sinai Peninsula, in cooperation with Hamas elements in the Gaza Strip." It gave no further details.

The airstrike took place just outside the headquarters of the ruling Hamas' police force in Gaza City. Another person was injured, Hamas said.

In past years Israeli aircraft have often targeted Gaza militants, but the frequency of the strikes has diminished considerably in recent months. An unwritten truce has been in effect since Israel's devastating three-week offensive in Gaza last year, aimed at halting rocket attacks.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman, claimed that Namnam was a "ticking bomb" planning more attacks, indicating that the Wednesday airstrike did not signal a return to frequent Israeli air attacks on Gaza.

"From time to time we have the relevant intelligence information for such an event, and there can be similar events in the future," she said.

The Army of Islam draws inspiration from al-Qaida, according to Palestinian experts. It is one of several small, shadowy militant groups operating in Gaza, sometimes clashing with the territory's Hamas rulers.

The Army of Islam has been involved in several high-profile abductions, including the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit and the kidnapping of British reporter Alan Johnston in 2007. Schalit is still being held, while Johnston was released after nearly four months in captivity.

The militant group did not issue a statement after the airstrike.

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