A barrage of Kassam rockets and mortar shells pounded the western Negev on Thursday, shortly after the Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for a series of air strikes which killed three of its operatives.

In the most recent air strike on Thursday morning, IAF planes attacked a target in the center of the Gaza Strip, killing two people.

The Islamic Jihad said two of its members were killed in the attack, and a third was wounded. All three had been returning to Mughazi refugee camp following a night spent on patrol along the Gaza-Israel border, the group said.

However, according to the army, the IAF attacked the operatives after they were spotted "firing an anti-tank missile at an IDF patrol along the security fence." The IDF patrol "pursued the gunmen into the Gaza Strip and directed an IAF strike against the squad. The forces exited the Gaza Strip safely and no injuries were reported."

Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed vowed that his group would avenge the deaths.

"Our rockets and our resistance will not stop," he said. "We know where and when we will take revenge for these crimes."

In the hours following the air strike, Palestinians in Gaza fired at least five Kassam rockets at the western Negev. The rockets landed in open areas in the Sdot Negev and Sha'ar Hanegev regions, causing no casualties or damage.

The IAF strike came less than 12 hours after another attack which targeted senior Islamic Jihad commander Khaled Shalan. He was killed when an IAF missile struck his car in Gaza.

Another member of the terror group was critically wounded in the attack on the vehicle, which had been traveling from Jabalya to Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza.

According to the IDF, Shalan was responsible for the recent rocket fire on Ashkelon.

Hamas officials said the two had jumped out of the vehicle when they heard the approaching aircraft, but were hit by the incoming missile.

Five others were reportedly wounded in the strike.

Shortly after the attack, the Islamic Jihad vowed it would retaliate.

"The assassination points to the fact that the Zionist entity is not interested in calm," the group said in a statement. "Therefore, [Israel should] expect our reaction, and more rockets."

"This crime will not pass without a response," the group warned.

Since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January, Palestinians have continued to fire rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory, often provoking a military response. On Tuesday, two waves of air strikes targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, wounding seven people.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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