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Israeli Airstrikes Kill Wife, Child of Hamas Military Leader


People gather as a Palestinian man reacts next to the rubble of his house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 20, 2014.
People gather as a Palestinian man reacts next to the rubble of his house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 20, 2014.

Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip carried out dozens of attacks on one another Wednesday, with one Israeli airstrike killing the wife and infant son of the Hamas military leader in Gaza.

Israel said it hit more than 90 targets in the Palestinian enclave along the Mediterranean, one of which struck the house of Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif. Hamas said he is still alive, but the raid killed his 27-year-old wife and seven-month-old son.

Several thousand mourners joined a funeral procession for them and shouted demands for revenge. Their bodies, wrapped in green Hamas flags, were carried from a mosque to a cemetery in a refugee camp in Jabaliya.

Palestinian medical authorities reported that at least 20 people in Gaza had been killed by the new Israeli airstrikes, bringing the death toll to nearly 2,050 since the conflict started July 8. Israel says 64 of its soldiers have been killed and three civilians.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council expressed "grave concern" at the resumption of violence in Gaza. All 15 members urged both sides to call an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and return to talks on a long-term truce.

Hamas said that Israel had opened a "gateway to hell," and warned of further Hamas rocket attacks on Israel's strategic interests, including Ben Gurion airport east of Tel Aviv.

Hamas warned international airlines against flying into Tel Aviv starting Thursday. Earlier in the conflict, some airlines canceled flights there after a rocket landed nearby.

Targeting Hamas leader

One Israeli Cabinet member, Interior Minister Gideon Saar, called the elusive Deif "an arch murderer" and said that Israel would target him as long as it has a chance to kill him.

Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas's armed wing in Gaza, appears to have narrowly survived a fifth attempt to assassinate him, allowing the mastermind of the six-week war on Israel to pursue the conflict from his network of tunnels, Reuters reported.

Israel said Hamas has fired more than 130 rockets across the border since Tuesday's cease-fire collapsed and fighting resumed.

It said 94 missiles had hit southern and central Israel and that its Iron Dome missile-defense system had shot down another 24. None of the rocket attacks caused any injuries.

Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military would conduct an extensive campaign in Gaza until "calm and safety" is restored for the country's citizens.

Israel's military reported rockets landed near the southern cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon and the central city, Jerusalem.

Who broke truce?

Government spokesman Mark Regev accused the Hamas group that controls Gaza of breaking the truce.

"Today's rocket attack on our city of Beer Sheba is a direct and grave violation of the cease-fire that Hamas, itself, committed to. This is the 11th cease-fire that Hamas has either rejected or violated," Regev said.

Hamas officials denied their group had launched any attacks against Israel. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of violating the truce.

He said the Israeli air raids aim to abort the negotiations in Cairo, and added that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the escalation and the consequences that may result.

Civilians who had fled their homes in Gaza and southern Israel had begun to return during the weeklong truce that followed five weeks of hostilities.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Before the attacks, cease-fire talks brokered by Egypt appeared to have made some progress with agreement reported on easing some restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and from the Gaza enclave.

Hamas demanded an end to the eight-year-old Israeli blockade of Gaza, while Israel demanded a demilitarization of Gaza.

Neither side appeared ready to accept the other's conditions for a permanent cease-fire.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.