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Israeli air strike in Gaza kills Palestinian militant

Gaza (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike in Gaza killed a Palestinian gunman and wounded another on Sunday, hospital officials said, hours after Israel killed the leader of an al Qaeda-linked militant group.

An Israeli military spokesman said the men targeted had been preparing to fire rockets into Israel.

The air strike, which targeted a motorcycle in southern Gaza, came hours after Israel killed two other militants in a similar attack late on Saturday.

Both Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, and Israel identified one of the men killed in the earlier attack as Salafi jihadist Hisham Al-Saedni.

Hamas said Saedni had headed Tawhid and Jihad (One God and Holy War), a group with an Islamist ideology shared by al Qaeda, while the Israeli military said he had helped found a kindred militant Salafi movement, the Hashura Council of the Mujahideen.

Saedni had recently been planning a attack that would be carried out in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai, the Israeli military said in a statement. The desert peninsula has seen a surge of Islamist militant activity during the political upheaval rocking Cairo since early 2011.

A number of Jihadist Salafi groups have surfaced in Gaza in recent years. Unlike Hamas, they endorse an ideology of global Jihad and some accuse Hamas of failing to implement Islamic laws in the coastal enclave.

Hamas rejects permanent peace with Israel and the two sides fought a three-week war from December 2008 into January 2009. The border is tense with frequent clashes. About 40 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel in October.

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks launched from Gaza, which has been under the group's control since 2007.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Bill Trott)

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