updated 2/7/2006 11:04:55 AM ET 2006-02-07T16:04:55

An explosion ripped through a car in Gaza City on Tuesday, killing two militants, witnesses said. The Israeli military claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hospital officials said two men in the car were killed, and their bodies were mangled in the blast.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, identified the two as Mohammed Abu Shariya and Suheil Jaber, both in their early 20s and senior commanders in the group.

A witness, Ahman Barhoom, said he was driving about 200 yards behind the car when it exploded. "A strong explosion went off in car, in the upper part of car, the front windows of my car were smashed and the car was like a big ball of fire," he said.

In recent days Israel has stepped up airstrikes aimed at Palestinian militants said to be connected to firing rockets at Israel from Gaza.

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