GAZA (Web Desk) Israeli special forces infiltrate the Gaza Strip, assassinating a top Hamas commander, while subsequent Israeli airstrikes kill five others, including another commander with the Palestinian resistance movement.
On Sunday, the group said in a statement that the forces had made their way into the coastal sliver using a civilian vehicle.
The Israeli occupants assassinated Nour Baraka, a senior commander with Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, in a drive-by shooting near the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, it added.
The group defined the exact place where the targeted killing took place as “the area of the Shahid Ismail Abu Shanab mosque, three kilometers (1.8 miles) east of Khan Yunis.”
A firefight erupted afterwards, with Israeli aircraft firing from above “to cover the retreat of this force, and in the process some of our people were killed.” Local witnesses said the aircraft fired over 20 missiles during the strikes.
“The incident continues and our forces continue to respond to this dangerous Zionist aggression,” said the statement.
Five more people were killed during the airstrikes, including Mohammad al-Qarra, another Hamas commander, Palestinian medical officials were quoted by AFP as saying.
Various reports said an Israeli trooper had been seized during the exchange, but the Israeli military denied any such incident had taken place.
“No IDF (Israeli military) soldiers were abducted during the IDF’s operational activity in the Gaza Strip,” a spokesperson said, quoted by Israeli media network Arutz Sheva’s website.
This is not the first time Hamas officials come under Israeli attack. The regime has assassinated many figures with the Palestinian group.
Last March, Tel Aviv assassinated Mazen Fuqaha, one of the group’s senior figures, in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. The victim was shot with four bullets to his head.
In 2010, Israel had itself been embroiled in an international scandal when its operatives used false European and Australian passports to assassinate senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in the United Arab Emirates.
The killing and the circumstances surrounding it also raised suspicions of complicity by Emirati intelligence and other services in the assassination.
Netanyahu cuts Paris trip short
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, cut short an underway trip to Paris, where he was attending World War I commemorations, flying back to Israel to address the situation.
He had claimed at a press conference in the French capital earlier in the day that the situation in the enclave had “no diplomatic solution.”
Tel Aviv blockaded the already-impoverished sliver of land more than a decade ago after Hamas decisively won the Palestinian parliamentary elections. The embargo has rendered living conditions for Gaza’s two-million-strong population insufferable. The United Nations has warned that the overall pressure could render Gaza uninhabitable by 2020.
The regime regularly conducts air raids targeting Gaza, and has launched three large-scale wars against the territory, killing thousands during each.
Netanyahu, however, said, “I am doing everything I can to avoid an unnecessary war.”