(Reuters) – Israel killed three senior Hamas commanders in the Gaza Strip in an air strike on Thursday and said it would continue to target the group’s armed leadership after a ceasefire failed.
Hamas, which dominates Gaza, named the men as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum, the three highest-ranking casualties it has announced since Israelstarted its offensive six weeks ago.
All three, killed in the bombing of a house in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, had led operations against Israel over the past 20 years, the Islamist movement said. Hospital officials said a four-year-old girl injured in the attack later died of her wounds.
The Israeli military and Shin Bet, the internal security service, confirmed it had targeted two of the men.
Since the collapse on Tuesday of a 10-day ceasefire, the Israeli military has ramped up its efforts to hit the leadership of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.
“We will continue to seek out and target Hamas leaders anywhere, and everywhere – wherever they are,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said.
Hamas’s Gaza-based deputy political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, who has stayed out of the public eye, said in a speech read by a presenter on the group’s Al-Aqsa TV station that “the enemy will pay a heavy price” for the assassinations.
“When one leader is martyred, other leaders take the flag and continue the march,” Haniyeh said.
Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8 with the declared aim of curbing Palestinian rocket fire into its territory. Gaza health officials say 2,066 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed.