The Israeli military on Tuesday denied Palestinian reports that it killed two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group as they were riding a motorcycle in the northern Gaza Strip.
The two men were reportedly riding through the town of Beit Lahiya when their motorcycle exploded.
The Israel Defense Forces denied it was responsible for the blast. “Contrary to Palestinian reports earlier today, the IDF did not attack in the northern Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement.
Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Jerusalem Brigades, said in a statement on its website that the two Palestinian men died while on a “jihad mission.”
In contrast to Palestinian media reports, the statement did not explicitly blame Israel for their deaths.
The terror group name the dead as 25-year-old Hussein Nasrallah and 29-year-old Mustafa a-Sultan. Both were part of an engineering unit, the statement said.
The statement also referred to the two as “martyrs of preparation,” in a possible reference to working with explosive materials for rockets that the group fires at the Jewish state.
Islamic Jihad carried out a mortar attack on Israeli troops earlier this month. On October 30, Israel had blown up an Islamic Jihad attack tunnel that stretched from Gaza under the border into Israel.
The terrorist group said in an official statement that it “mourned” the loss of its two members.
Hebrew media outlets reported that within the IDF there was a suspicion that the terrorists were killed in a “work accident,” possibly from improperly transporting explosives.
The immediate Israeli denial was somewhat of a rarity. In general, the IDF does not comment on such allegations.
The blast comes amid increased tensions in Gaza. On Sunday, the military destroyed an attack tunnel belonging to the Hamas terror group, and there has been an increase in rocket fire against Israeli communities by terrorist groups, along with violent protests along the security fence against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week.
Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, Israeli forces attacked Hamas targets in the northern Gaza Strip after Palestinians fired a rocket toward the southern city of Ashkelon, the army said. The rocket was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery.
After the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft and a tank attacked Hamas sites in the Strip, the army said, noting that it holds the terror group, which runs Gaza, responsible for all rocket attacks.
It was the second round of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli responses in a day.
The rocket, fired at about 11:30 p.m., triggered early warning sirens in Ashkelon, the Lachish region and in the area around the Gaza Strip.
The IDF said the Iron Dome successfully intercepted the rocket. No injuries were reported.
Hamas last week called for a new intifada against Israel over Trump’s announcement, and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, allowing thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence in recent days.
TOI staff contributed to this report.