Israeli military aircraft have killed three top Hamas commanders in southern Gaza, inflicting a heavy blow on the movement’s armed wing after failing to kill its top military chief.
And a Hamas warning to foreign airlines to avoid flying into Israel’s main airport, appeared to have fallen on deaf ears with air traffic operating as normal, aviation officials said.
Thursday’s attack came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip may be an extended operation.
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, confirmed that Mohamed Abo Shamaleh, Raed al-Attar and Mohamed Barhoum had been killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah, the Reuters news agency reported.
“The assassination . . . is a big Israeli crime, which will not succeed in breaking our will or weakening our resistance,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, warning: “Israel will pay the price.”
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from West Jerusalem, said this looked like a return to Israel’s “historical” tactics of targeting senior figures.
“During this renewed round of hostilities we are seeing a different approach, and this could be seen as an acknowledgement that military tactics have not been delivering on several different levels,” our correspondent said.
“The previous tactics were not working diplomatically, in fact they have been disastrous, seriously affecting Israel’s international prestige and even its relationships with firm allies.”
At a news conference on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that the war launched on July 8 “will be a continued campaign” aimed at restoring “calm and safety to Israeli citizens”.
“Only the guarantee of the safety of Israeli citizens and therefore I will continue to operate with firmness and insistence. Operation Protective Edge is not finished, not for a minute, we are talking about a continued campaign,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu added that he saw a “new diplomatic horizon” ahead for Israel in the region, alluding to possible diplomacy with Palestinians ahead once the war was over, according Reuters news agency.
“Amid the feeling of dramatic changes that are taking place in the region, I can also add, that there is a new diplomatic horizon for the state Israel,” he said.
Hamas spokesman Zuhri denounced Netanyahu’s speech as “a pathetic attempt to heal Israel’s psyche and the assassination threats of Hamas’ leadership reflects the extent of the occupation’s violence and their lack of seriousness in achieving a ceasefire”.
“These threats will not frighten Hamas leaders. On the contrary, we will continue to protect and defend our people in facing Israeli crimes or foolishness,” he said. – AFP