GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli airstrike killed three Gaza militants on Tuesday near an area where an unmanned Israeli surveillance aircraft crashed earlier in the day, an official in the Palestinian territory said. The Israeli military said it was responding to mortar fire.
The Israeli military said the Skylark drone experienced a technical malfunction and it was investigating what caused it to go down.
Israel uses drones to gather intelligence on militant activity in Gaza, a territory governed by the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, and where several other armed groups also operate.
Hamas militants said they recovered the aircraft in southern Gaza and handed it over to security forces. No further details were immediately available.
The Israeli army would not say whether the drone's fall into Hamas' hands could provide secrets or technology to the militants. The Skylark, however, is known to have safeguards to prevent disclosure of information to unauthorized personnel.
Shortly after the drone crashed, the Islamic Jihad movement said an Israeli airstrike struck the area, killing three members belonging to the group.
The Israeli military said it was responding to mortar fire that had just taken place toward Israel.
"Terrorists must know that there is a price to pay when participating in aggression," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.
Later Tuesday, an explosion ripped through a house in northern Gaza, killing three people and wounding four others, Gaza medical officials said. A security official said the three dead were Hamas militants, and that the blast had been caused while mishandling explosives. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Israeli military said it was not involved in the incident.
The military also said that in an incident late on Monday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian after he threw rocks at Israeli cars in the West Bank. Palestinian police initially blamed Jewish settlers for the shooting.
The shooting came after Israeli guards shot and killed a Jordanian judge who the Israelis said tried to grab a rifle from a soldier at the border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the latest escalation was a "dangerous provocation" that could spiral out of control.
Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in peace talks that have showed no sign of progress yet.
The recent deaths, in particular that of the judge, have raised tempers. In east Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinians demonstrated outside the Old City's Damascus Gate. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said forces moved in to break up the "illegal" demonstration, arresting five protesters who tried to block a main road. He said there were no injuries.
But the Reuters news agency said one of its cameramen was shot with a rubber bullet from close range, while an officer smashed his camera. An Associated Press photographer meanwhile was hit in the face by a policeman and suffered a bloody nose.