Three Hamas militants travelling in a car between Khan Younis and the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza were killed when missiles fired by the Israeli Air Force struck them.

In retaliation, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, warned that Israel will face consequences.”

In a statement, Hamas identified the three dead men as Ismael Lubbad, Abdallah Lubbad and Mohammed Eldayah – all of whom belonged to Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades.

Another person was also injured.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, characterized the air strike as a “crime” and serious escalation and promised that Israel would bear all the consequences.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the attack was a pre-emptive measure against militants who were planning to kidnap Israelis. She explained that this terror squad was conspiring terrorist attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula (a popular destination for Israeli holiday-makers) and in Israel during the Jewish holiday of Passover in late April.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants in Gaza are still holding Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized during a cross-border raid in 2006. Hamas said they will not release him until Israel freed hundreds of Palestinian prisoners -- including many convicted of murdering Israeli civilians.

Israel has advised its citizens to avoid visiting the Sinai, especially during the Passover holidays.

The strike represents the continuation of violence in recent weeks between Israel and Gaza Palestinians along the border, exchanging several air strikes.

However, officials of both Israel and Hamas have insisted they don’t want any escalation of hostilities.