Israel Assassinates Top Hamas Commanders Amid Continued Rocket Fire
TEL AVIV - The Israel Air Force (IAF) assassinated two senior Hamas military commanders on Wednesday night in response to more than 200 rockets that have been fired at Israel since Hamas violated a temporary ceasefire and diplomatic negotiations in Cairo collapsed on Tuesday.
Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Raed al-Attar were killed in airstrikes in the south Gaza town of Rafah, reports the Times of Israel.
"The strike was the result of intelligence and operational activities, which led to the detection and attack on two central operatives from the heart of Hamas' military leadership," Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet said in a statement.
According to Shin Bet, Shamaleh and al-Attar have a long history of organizing terror attacks against Israel, including a 2006 attack at the Kerem Shalom border crossing that resulted in the death of two IDF soldiers and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was held in captivity for five years before being released by Hamas in a prisoner swap that freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
Al-Attar was also responsible for the kidnapping and murder of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin three weeks ago during Operation Protective Edge.
On Tuesday, the IAF conducted an airstrike on al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammed Deif's house. Deif is considered the most valuable commander in Hamas' terror organization, and has escaped several assassination attempts over the past decade. Accounts differ as to whether or not Deif was killed in the strike; Israel believes Deif was killed, while Hamas insists Deif is alive and well. The commander's wife and son were killed in the attack.
According to the IDF, over 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since Hamas broke a temporary ceasefire and negotiations in Cairo collapsed on Tuesday afternoon. Thirty-five rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, and 16 fell short of Israel, landing within the Gaza Strip.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference on Wednesday that Operation Protective Edge is not yet over.
"[The operation] will continue until its goals are reached: restoring long-term quiet for Israeli citizens while striking a significant blow to the terror infrastructure," Netanyahu said.