Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli forces will keep hunting down leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip after killing the wife and child of the group’s militia chief in an air raid.
“The commanders of terror organizations are a legitimate target,” Netanyahu said last night at a Tel Aviv news conference. “No one is immune.”
The prime minister brushed off a question about whether the air strike Aug. 19 killed Mohammed Deif himself, the head of the Qassam Brigades that Israel has tried to assassinate five times and has left crippled. The militia said Deif had survived the attack, which led to a renewed barrage of rockets at Israel following a nine-day truce.
The latest surge in violence occurred after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo failed to prevent the temporary cease-fire from unraveling. Fighting since early July has killed at least 2,049 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry. Sixty-seven people have been killed on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers, according to the army.
Israel’s inner security cabinet met to discuss taking further military action as Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets at Israel. Housing Minister Uri Ariel called for another Israeli ground offensive to be carried out “soon, strongly and quickly.” Speaking to Channel 2 television, Ariel said the air raids against Gaza since yesterday “have not brought quiet” to Israel.
The Israeli military, which withdrew ground forces from Gaza on Aug. 5, said by phone that it was calling up 2,000 reserve troops.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, who has sought to help broker the cease-fire talks, plans to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal tomorrow to discuss developments in Gaza, QNA reported.
Netanyahu is facing pressure from hawkish members of his cabinet, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that Hamas must be “crushed” unless Israel wants to face a war of attrition. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called Liberman’s statements “stupid” and warned in a statement that Israel would face “the toughest days it has ever experienced” should it follow the foreign minister’s lead.
Netanyahu, who said at the news conference that Israel had dealt Hamas “its biggest blow ever,” also suggested his country would enjoy a “new political horizon” when Gaza settles down. Pointing to the Islamist group’s lack of support in many Arab countries, Netanyahu said he detected a “change in the regional constellation that may create new possibilities.” He declined to elaborate.
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s benchmark TA-25 Index declined 0.3 percent in Tel Aviv. The shekel was up 0.2 percent against the dollar.
More than 180 rockets have been fired at Israeli territory since Aug. 19, according to the army, most hitting open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, including several over Tel Aviv.
Israeli air raids struck about 80 targets in Gaza, killing at least 13 Palestinians, including at least three children, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.
While Israeli and Palestinian negotiators left Cairo after the truce broke down, Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had contacted officials on both sides to urge them to recommit to a cease-fire, according to an e-mailed statement.
Egypt-mediated truce talks since Aug. 5 have brought a succession of temporary cease-fires, which were later shattered by rocket attacks and Israeli strikes. The aim has been to reach a lasting accord addressing issues unresolved by pacts ending two previous conflicts over the past six years.
Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and European Union, has demanded an end to the blockade on the coastal territory that Israel, citing security considerations, initiated after the militant group won Palestinian elections in 2006. Israel has sought assurances that militants won’t resume their rocket attacks and cross-border raids.