Israeli Strike Kills Wife, Daughter of Hamas Military Leader

Israeli aircraft struck a Gaza Strip home where the family of Hamas’s military chief was staying, after an Egyptian-brokered truce seeking to end more than a month of hostilities collapsed.

Mohammed Deif’s wife and daughter were killed in the strike, Mussa Abu Marzuk, a political leader of Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, wrote in a Facebook post, adding that Deif was “still alive.” He didn’t say whether the militant commander had been inside the home at the time. The Israeli army had no comment on whether Deif, who has survived several Israeli assassination attempts, had been targeted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Tel Aviv news conference that Hamas had received their “biggest blow ever.”

“The commanders of terror organizations are a legitimate target, no one is immune,” he said.

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 latest surge in violence occurred after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo failed yesterday to extend a temporary cease-fire that had lasted nine days before unraveling amid renewed rocket fire at Israel from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli air raids. Fighting since early July has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 67 people on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers.

Charting Course

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 today 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.

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.

Air Strikes

More than 100 rockets have been fired at Israeli territory since yesterday, 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.

Egyptian Mediation

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.

Egypt had proposed an 11-point truce plan that includes halting hostilities, easing the Israeli blockade and giving the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority a role in rebuilding the territory, according to a report in Egypt’s Al-Shorouk newspaper.

Ahmed Assaf, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, said today that certain countries in the region, which he didn’t identify, undermined the Cairo talks. The London-based pan-Arabic daily Al-Hayat cited an unidentified Palestinian official accusing Qatar, a major Hamas backer with strained relations with Egypt, of threatening to expel Hamas officials from their Gulf state base if they agreed to the Egyptian proposal.

Israel has been criticized by the U.S. and other countries for the number of Palestinian civilians killed. Israel accuses Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington that the U.S. condemned the Gaza rocket fire and “Israel has a right to defend itself against such attacks.” The U.S. called for “for an immediate end to rocket fire and hostilities and a return to cease-fire talks,” she added.

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