RAFAH, GAZA – Three senior Hamas military commanders were killed when they were targeted with airstrikes by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in Rafah, a city located in the southern Gaza strip, Israeli officials said Thursday.
Mohammed Abu Shamlah, Raed Attar and Muhamad Barhoum were identified as the three commanders in Hamas’ military wing who were killed near the town of Rafah. Palestinian officials said that at least 10 people were killed in the airstrikes, which came after plans of a long-term ceasefire fell through earlier in the week, the BBC reported.
In a statement by the IDF, the military justified the killing of these top commanders by stating that they were directly involved in kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers, terrorist attacks on Israel, overseeing tunnels used to infiltrate the state, planned major attacks on its citizens and smuggled weapons into Gaza to train terrorists.
In light of this event, Hamas's Military Wing has responded and said that it will continue the resistance against the occupation until the rights and territories of the Palestinian people are restored. “We promise God that the blood of our martyrs will not go in vain,” they said, according to Hamas-affiliated online media, Filastin.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner described the strikes as “a clear message to those responsible for planning attacks.” Hamas launched “rockets indiscriminately” at civilians and abducted soldiers. Israel will continue retaliating against those who have terrorized Israeli communities as well as those who abducted their soldiers and teenagers. “We will succeed in restoring security to the State of Israel,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed gratitude towards the Israeli Security Academy (ISA) and IDF in a press conference Thursday. Netanyahu said the agencies protected its citizens against Hamas' top commanders who planned deadly attacks against them. “Operation Protective Edge will continue until its objective has been fulfilled,” he said.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8 2014, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has reported the cumulative deaths of Palestinians as 1,999 with 467 being children and 244 women. On the other side of the conflict, 66 Israelis have died with 64 being soldiers, two civilians and one foreign national.