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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Israel checks whether Hamas’s second-highest military leader died in airstrike

If his death is confirmed, Marwan Issa would be the highest-ranking official from the Islamist militant movement taken out by Israel in the more than five-month war that has pulverised the Palestinian enclave and killed thousands

Reuters Jerusalem, Cairo Published 12.03.24, 06:10 AM
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Israel was checking on Monday if Hamas’s second-highest military leader died in an air strike, media said, as talks stumbled to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza war to coincide with Ramzan.

If his death is confirmed, Marwan Issa would be the highest-ranking official from the Islamist militant movement taken out by Israel in the more than five-month war that has pulverised the Palestinian enclave and killed thousands.

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Israeli Army Radio said Israel had bombed the Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza on Saturday night, where it had intelligence about the location of Issa, second-in-command of Hamas’s military wing the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

The attack killed five people, the report said.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel was checking if the fatalities included Issa. Neither the Israeli military nor Hamas officials immediately commented on the media reports.

On Sunday, in a statement rounding up operations from the previous 24 hours, Israel said its forces had killed militants in central Gaza but did not mention the camp.

Issa is high on Israel’s most wanted list, together with military wing head Mohammed Deif and Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.

Fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, killed 1,200 people in a rampage into southern Israel and took 253 hostages, by Israeli tallies. The ensuing war has claimed more than 31,000 Palestinian lives, according to Gaza’s authorities, as well as obliterating infrastructure and causing widespread hunger.

Issa’s death, if confirmed, could also complicate efforts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages, although Israel says talks are ongoing through Egyptian and Qatari mediators. Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad said at the weekend that both sides were seeking to narrow gaps and reach agreements.

Hamas blames Israel for refusing to give guarantees to end the war and withdraw troops. Israel wants a temporary truce to allow an exchange of hostages but has said it will not stop its war until it has defeated Hamas.

16 of family killed

Negotiators had wanted a halt in hostilities for Ramzan, which began on Monday.

But in the early hours, an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City killed 16 people,
Palestinian health officials said.

The strike, around dawn in Zeitoun hit the house of the Abu Shammala family, killing all those inside, according to medics.

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