Israeli Air Raids Kill Three Hamas Commanders: US Urges More Dialogue

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By Kalyan Kumar | August 22, 2014 4:38 PM EST

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Thursday killed three prominent Hamas commanders. The Reuters reported noted that it was a big blow to the militant group. The Israeli killings followed the aborted assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif on Wednesday.

Reuters
Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip July 29, 2014. Israel's military pounded targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country should prepare for a long conflict in the Palestinian enclave, squashing any hopes of a swift end to 22 days of fighting. Israel launched its offensive on July 8 with the aim of halting rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies. It later ordered a land invasion to find and destroy the warren of Hamas tunnels that criss-crosses the border area.

Hamas too confirmed the loss of its three men whose bodies it pulled out from a building in Rafah in Gaza strip. Mohammed Abu Shamala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum were killed in the al-Sultan neighborhood.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the killings as "despicable crime"  and vowed that it will make Israel pay for it, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz".

The truce in Gaza was broken on Tuesday after Israel alleged that Hamas unleashed rocket attacks into its territory.

Intelligence Praised

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israel's intelligence agency Shin Bet for the extraordinary intelligence and professionalism in making the air raids successful. He also hailed the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) for the precise execution.

Shin Bet sources claimed that Abu Shamala was a senior commander in southern Gaza and was the main man behind tunnel construction. He was the key figure in the 2006 attack at Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza. That conflict led to the death of two Israeli soldiers and capture of a soldier named Gilad Shalit. The captured soldier was held for five years until 2011 and released as a quid pro quo for thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

Avi Melamed, the former Israeli intelligence officer and a fellow at the Eisenhower Institute, said the targeted killing was a message to Hamas that Israel can get any of them.

Hamas Threat

Hamas, in a televised statement on Wednesday, warned Israel that it would strike its strategic assets, including the Ben Gurion Airport. But no rocket attacks had been reported in the area, and flight operations are going on smoothly.

The US State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, expressed concerns at the new escalation of violence. The US called for an immediate end to rocket attacks and a resumption of ceasefire talks.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Gaza issue with Mr Netanyahu. But the spokesperson reiterated the U.S support for Israel in defending itself.

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(Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner)
Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip July 29, 2014. Israel's military pounded targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country should prepare for a long conflict in the Palestinian enclave, squashing any hopes of a swift end to 22 days of fighting. Israel launched its offensive on July 8 with the aim of halting rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies. It later ordered a land invasion to find and destroy the warren of Hamas tunnels that criss-crosses the border area.
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