Three Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip were killed late Tuesday morning by Israel Air Force fire.

“Three martyrs have died in a Zionist strike,” Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

The three were members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, a statement from the group said.

It said they had been killed after firing mortar shells in a bid to try and prevent “an Israeli incursion east of Khan Yunis.” A witness confirmed Israeli tanks and bulldozers had tried to enter the area.

“Rapid reaction and operational capabilities are key to combating terrorist activities against Israel and our forces,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “Terrorists must know that there is a price to pay when participating in aggression.”

Earlier Tuesday morning, an IAF drone crashed in the southern Gaza strip, about 500 meters from the Israeli border, due to a technical malfunction.