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Medics recover bodies of 5 killed in Gaza strike

Dec. 19, 2010 2:41 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 20, 2010 2:07 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Strip medical officials said Sunday that ambulances had collected the shredded bodies of five Palestinian operatives after they were targeted by an Israeli airstrike hours earlier.

Medics identified the deceased as Abdullah Shreihi, Ahmad Al-Assar, Khalil At-Taweel, Ashraf Abu Sabt, and Ahmad Az-Za’lan, all of Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Israel's military said its forces hit central Gaza to take out a squad of militants about to fire rockets.

The strike was one of the most deadly since Israel's 22-day war against Gaza's Hamas rulers, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, which began at the end of December 2008 and cost the lives of 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

Witnesses said armed men preparing an attack on Israel were killed in the raid, while medics gave a death toll of five. The raid targeted Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, they said.

Security services confirmed that the five Palestinians, all aged around 20, died in an Israeli air raid and were to be buried Sunday.

The witnesses said the dead, former members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees, belonged to one of the radical Salafist groups in Gaza that have recently stepped up attacks against Israel.

Israel Radio said the five were affiliated to a Salafi group called “Jaljalat.”

The Israeli army said in a statement that a warplane had "identified and hit a team of terrorist agents preparing to launch rockets at Israeli territory from the central Gaza Strip."

AFP contributed to this report.
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