The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said Raid Faanuna was killed in an air strike "during a mission" east of Gaza City.

 

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The Israeli military has denied carrying out any air strikes.

  

Witnesses said they saw an Apache helicopter flying low and heard heavy shooting and periodic explosions as Israeli soldiers patrolled rooftops and Palestinian fighters ran through the streets.

 

Diaa Abu Dhakar, another Al-Quds Brigades fighter, was killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis - where seven more Palestinians were wounded as clashes flared  

  

Twenty Palestinians, including seven in critical condition, were taken to hospital in Gaza City.

  

In the south, two fighters form the Al-Quds Brigades and Hamas's armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were killed in the fighting. Another two Palestinians were wounded.

  

Conflicting reports

 

The Israeli army said the activity was against "terror threats" in Gaza, where Hamas fighters overran security forces loyal to Abbas on June 15. 

 

News agencies reported conflicting accounts of the attacks, recording a combination of land incursions and an air strike.

 

Raid Faanuna, leader of the Al-Quds Brigades, was found burnt  in his car [Reuters]
The Israeli army denied carrying out an air assault, but confirmed land offensives

 

An Israeli army spokesman said: "There is activity in the northern Gaza Strip and the southern Gaza Strip, in the area of Gaza City and the area of Khan Yunis."

 

Israel pulled its forces and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but has not stopped air strikes and other attacks against armed groups.

  

Representatives of the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - met in Jerusalem on Tuesday for talks aimed at boosting progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following Hamas's Gaza takeover.