Israeli forces killed two Palestinian militants and one civilian in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses said early Thursday.
An airstrike killed one militant and wounded two others as gunmen confronted more than 50 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers advancing near Rafah airport.
Islamic Jihad said the dead and wounded men were its members. One of the wounded men was in a critical condition, witnesses said. The group is dedicated to Israel’s destruction and has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings.
The Israeli army confirmed its forces were operating in southern Gaza and said the airstrike came after its troops were targeted with a rocket propelled grenade.
A second airstrike east of Rafah killed a member of the Hamas militant group and wounded another.
As the tanks pushed deeper into the eastern part of Rafah, Israeli gunfire killed a Palestinian civilian man and wounded two others, witnesses said.
Israel has killed at least 157 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, in Gaza since it began an offensive to stop gunmen from firing rockets into Israel and to pressure militants to free a soldier that armed groups captured on June 25.