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Israel army holds surprise border drill
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Sept 19, 2012

Israel air strike kills two Gazans, wounds one: medics
Rafah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Sept 20, 2012 - An Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip killed two Palestinians and wounded one late on Wednesday, the Hamas-run emergency services said.

The strike, which was witnessed by an AFP photographer, hit a car in the town of Rafah on the territory's southern border with Egypt.

The emergency services identified the dead as Ashraf Saleh and Anis Abu Elenein.

A military source cited by Israeli public radio said the strike was targeted at "terrorists" of the Palestinian Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip "who were preparing to carry out an attack against Israel."

"The martyrs were carrying out a routine mission of monitoring and securing the southern border between Gaza and Egypt," a Hamas statement said.

Gaza militants fired two mortar rounds into southern Israel earlier Wednesday without causing casualties or damage, the army said.

Israel routinely responds to such attacks with air strikes, and last week six Palestinians were killed in two attacks within a 12-hour period.

The last major flare-up in and around Gaza was in June, when militants fired more than 150 rockets at southern Israel, wounding five people, and Israel hit back with air strikes that killed 15 Palestinians.

Israel's army on Wednesday staged a surprise drill on the country's northern border, the military said, amid tensions over Iran's nuclear drive and the fate of Syria's chemical weapons.

The one-day exercise was ordered by army chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, a military statement said, "in order to examine the competence and preparedness of several units in the army, led by (the) artillery corps."

The drill was not previously announced, but the military said it had been scheduled.

"The drill is a part of routine inspection in the army," the statement said. "These drills take place throughout the year."

Military sources said the drill began with soldiers being drafted from their homes, after which they were dispatched by air to the Golan Heights, which borders Syria.

The drill was to end with a live fire exercise later in the day, sources added.

"The drill was scheduled in advance and does not indicate any changes in the army's levels of alert," they said.

Israel is closely watching its northern border with Syria, where the embattled regime has reportedly considered supplying chemical weapons to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Tensions also remain high over the prospect of a preemptive Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear programme, which the Jewish state believes masks a weapons drive.

On Sunday, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that if Israeli jets or missiles did strike Iran, "nothing of Israel will be left."

Israel, the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, believes Tehran is using its nuclear programme as cover for building atomic weapons.

Iran denies the charge, saying the programme is for peaceful civilian energy and medical purposes.


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