Gaza City: The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Saturday rejected charges that three of its militants killed in an overnight air strike planned to abduct Israelis and warned of retribution.

The Israeli Air Force launched a missile in the early hours at a car travelling in the southern Gaza Strip, killing three members of the Hamas armed wing and wounding a fourth person.

The raid, planned jointly with the Shin Bet domestic security agency, was a preemptive strike against militants planning to kidnap Israelis during the coming Jewish festival of Passover, an Israeli military spokesman said.

"An Israel air force aircraft hit a Hamas terror cell...planning to carry out kidnapping attacks in the Sinai peninsula and in Israel during the Passover holiday," he said.

Hamas said in a statement that the three dead were members of the Islamist group's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades and identified them as Ismail Lubbad, Abdullah Lubbad and
Mohammed al-Dayah.

A later statement from Brigades' spokesman Abu Obeida called the kidnapping allegation "nonsense" and warned of retribution.

"If the enemy wants to play with fire, it will get burned by fire," Abu Obeida said.

(Agencies)