MIDDLE EAST – Israel was bracing for additional long-range rocket attacks after Hamas warned on Wednesday that it would avenge the deaths of its top commanders with special rocket barrages throughout the evening.
Jerusalem Post said, the commanders were killed in a joint IDF- Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation earlier Wednesday when the IDF said it carried out a series of targeted killings in Gaza City and Khan Younis, eliminating senior members of Hamas’ General Staff who were considered close to the head of the group’s military wing, Mohammed Deif.
The dead men were identified as Bassem Issa, the head of the Gaza City brigade since 2017 and head of the group’s cyber network and missile improvement project Jamaa Tahla. According to the Shin Bet, Tahla was the right-hand man of Deif and the central leader of the group’s efforts to improve its military capabilities.
“Hitting him is a significant blow to Hamas’ capabilities,” the security agency said of Tahla.
Gamal Zabda, the head of the group’s development and projects department who was the main player in Hamas’ rocket unit, was also killed. According to the Shin Bet, Zabda who held a PhD in mechanical engineering with a specialty in aerodynamics, was a significant source of knowledge for Hamas. Khazem Khatib, the head of the engineering department in Hamas’s production division and served as deputy chief of staff was also killed.
Palestinian media reported that at least 48 people had been killed in the IDF strikes, including 14 children, and that more than 296 had been wounded. The Gaza Health Ministry claimed on Wednesday morning that 43% of the casualties were women and children, due to what it claimed were targeted attacks against civilians.
Casualties were reported on Wednesday in Gaza after the IDF targeted a motorcycle near Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and a car near Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
A number of strikes on apartments and vehicles were reported on Wednesday, causing multiple deaths and injuries.
In an earlier attack, the IDF eliminated two Hamas intelligence operatives who it said were responsible for rocket barrages into Israel: Hassan Kaogi, the head of Hamas’s military intelligence security wing, as well as his second-in-command, Wail Issa, the head of its intelligence counter-espionage wing.
The IDF also eliminated three additional senior Hamas officials: Gaza Brigade commander Bassam Issa, Khan Younis Brigade commander Rafa Salama and Hamas intelligence chief Mohammed Yazouri.
On Tuesday, the military killed two top Islamic Jihad terrorists, striking a blow, it said, to the terror group’s rocket infrastructure. It also eliminated the head of the Hamas anti-tank missile unit Tuesday evening in an airstrike.
One of the terrorists was identified as Samah Abed al-Mamlouk. The IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that Mamlouk, attacked in a hideout together with a number of additional Islamic Jihad operatives, was in charge of Islamic Jihad’s rocket arsenal.
In another strike, Hassan Abu al-Ata, deputy commander of Islamic Jihad’s Gaza Brigade, was also killed when the IDF struck an apartment in an eight-story building in Gaza’s Rimal neighborhood. He was the brother of Baha abu Al-Ata who was killed by Israel in 2019. Both brothers were known senior members of Islamic Jihad and were behind many of the group’s rocket attacks against Israel in recent years.
Islamic Jihad said that the response to the killings of its operatives would be harsh.
Earlier Tuesday, Hamas and the IDF expressed opposition to efforts by Egypt to mediate a ceasefire on Monday night and Tuesday, with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip firing almost 1000 rockets and killing five Israelis since the violence began on Monday.
Several hundred failed rocket launches fell back into the Gaza Strip; Air Defense Artillery combat soldiers intercepted several hundred more.
As of early Wednesday morning, three Israeli women were killed in rocket attacks, with more than 50 injured, including two women in serious condition: an 81-year-old as well as a 30-year-old who was hit by shrapnel in her upper body.
The IDF warned residents of Gaza on Tuesday to stay away from any locations where Hamas weapons are stored for their own safety, saying there will be a “wide wave of attacks in the Gaza Strip.”