(CNN) — An Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza overnight killed three high-ranking members of Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, the militant group said Thursday.
The three members of the Brigades’ 15-member military council were killed in a bombing in Rafah in southern Gaza, according to Hamas.
The announcement of their deaths come the day after Hamas said an Israeli strike had killed the wife and 7-month-old son of Mohammed Deif, the head of the military wing. The strike failed to kill Deif, Hamas said.
Role in capture of Israeli soldier
The militant group, which controls Gaza, said the leaders killed overnight were Mohammed Abu Shamala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.
Al-Attar, the commander of the Qassam Brigades in Rafah, is believed to be the most senior of the three.
The Israeli military said it had confirmed that it had killed al-Attar and Abu Shamala, describing them as “high-ranking Hamas commanders responsible for major terror attacks against Israelis.”
Al-Attar played a “major role” in the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, the Israel Defense Forces said on its Twitter account. Shalit was held captive until a deal was struck for his release in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
“This morning’s strike sends a clear message to those responsible for planning attacks,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “We will strike those that have terrorized our communities, towns and cities, we will pursue the perpetrators of abduction of our soldiers and teenagers, and we will succeed in restoring security to the State of Israel.”
The return to violence between Israel and Hamas began Tuesday after a cease-fire and peace talks in Cairo fell apart with each side blaming the other.
The Egyptian-brokered negotiations were aimed at finding a lasting end to the current Gaza conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them believed to be civilians. The fighting, which erupted in early July, has killed 67 people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.
But the two sides failed to reach a compromise, with Israel calling for Gaza to be demilitarized and Hamas requesting, among other things, the lifting of Israel’s economic blockade on Gaza.
Humanitarian groups have warned of a dire situation in Gaza, where tens of thousands of people have been left homeless amid the destruction caused by the conflict.
The Israeli military said Thursday that more than 225 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the truce collapsed this week. Over the same period, Israeli forces have attacked around 150 targets in Gaza, the IDF said.
Hamas threatens airport
“Our policy is simple: If you shoot, you will get attacked,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday. “If you try more, you will get double.”
Israel will not stop its efforts against Hamas “until we can ensure full safety and security” for people in Israel’s south, the prime minister said.
The Qassam Brigades on Wednesday warned international airlines to refrain from landing at or taking off from Ben Gurion Airport in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv from Thursday morning onward.
U.S. aviation authorities briefly banned U.S. carriers from flying to and from the airport in late July after a Hamas rocket struck nearby. Many international airlines followed suit, canceling flights to and from Tel Aviv.
But flights picked up again after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban. Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, had lobbied Washington to reverse the extraordinary order.