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Senior Hamas commanders killed in Gaza airstrike

The three senior military commanders, identified by Hamas as Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.

The 3 slain Hamas commanders in a Reuters file photo from 1999
(REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed three senior commanders of the Hamas military wing on Thursday, the group said, in what is likely to be a major blow to the organization's morale and a significant achievement for Israel's intelligence agency.

The pre-dawn strike levelled a four-story house in the southern town of Rafah, killing six people, including the three senior military commanders, identified by Hamas as Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.

Israel said Abu Shamaleh had been the top Hamas commander in southern Gaza, overseeing fighters there during the current war. Attar was in charge of weapons smuggling into Gaza and the construction of attack tunnels, the Israeli military said.

In 2006, Attar was involved in the capture of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, through such a tunnel, said the statement. It did not refer to Barhoum.

The Rafah attack came just a day after an apparent Israeli attempt to kill the top Hamas military leader, Mohammed Deif, in an airstrike on a house in Gaza City.

Deif's wife and an infant son were killed in that strike, but the Hamas military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said Deif was not in the targeted home at the time and was alive.

The back-to-back targeting of top Hamas military leaders came after indirect Israel-Hamas negotiations in Cairo on a sustainable truce broke down.

As talks ran aground on Tuesday, Gaza militants resumed rocket fire on Israel, even before the formal end of a six-day truce at midnight that day.

Since then, Hamas and other groups have fired dozens more rockets, and Israeli aircraft have struck dozens of targets in Gaza, a sign that prospects for a resumption of the Cairo talks are slim.

Despite the crisis, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was holding talks in Qatar on Thursday with the top political leader of Hamas in exile, Khaled Mashaal, and the emir of Qatar. Before the collapse of the truce talks, Abbas had planned to use the meetings in Qatar to urge Mashaal and his Qatari backers to support an Egyptian cease-fire plan.

Hamas has since rejected the Egyptian proposal, saying it ncontained no specific commitments by Israel to cease the border blockade of Gaza. The blockade had been imposed by Israel and Egypt after the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007.

Hamas leaders said they could not return to Gaza from Cairo with a deal they feared would simply restore the closure regime that was in place before the start of the latest round of fighting on July 8. The border restrictions prevent most Gazans from travelling outside the crowded coastal strip and bar most exports.

Over the past six weeks, more than 2,000 Gaza residents have been killed and about 100,000 left homeless, according to figures by the U.N. and Palestinian officials. Israel lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

It was not clear if Thursday's targeted killing of the three Hamas leaders will prompt a change in the group's strategy or diminish its ability to fire rockets. Israel estimated that Hamas had about 10,000 rockets before the war and that it lost about two-thirds of its arsenal.

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  1. Karl Burgin posted on 08/21/2014 09:05 AM
    No sleep lost here...
    Maybe now, actual serious peace talks can begin....
  2. IBLeaf posted on 08/21/2014 10:33 AM
    Men like these are the fuel that powers terrorism. If you remove the source that spreads the meme then you end the culture. Good for Israel for taking these bastards out and I hope they focus their resources on eliminating the rest of them.
    1. Angry Bill posted on 08/21/2014 11:16 AM
      @IBLeaf Realistically, there will always be leaders eager to step up and take control, no matter how many of them are targeted. It's like administering antibiotics for a virus. Eventually a strain of virus will develop that is resistant to the antibiotics. This is the same thing.. Eventually the leaders will become very good at avoiding detection, and Israel will have a harder time locating them as targets.

      This is a Byzantine, dark ages religion that never adapted to the modern world like Christianity did (though some fringe elements of Christianity never made the leap, either). It is essentially a cult.. where its members are brainwashed into thinking it's a brilliant idea to strap explosives around them and blow up a bunch of women and kids at a cafe somewhere, or to drive airplanes full of civilian passengers into office buildings full of other civilians. Oh, and they all think they're going to get 40 virgins when they die. This is why I have exactly ZERO sympathy for them when they trot out the odd woman and child who got killed because Hamas was hiding behind them on purpose. The terrorists target our civilians on purpose, because to them, we are all infidels and deserve to die, civilian or not. Israel, on the other hand, does not target civilians. They target the cowards who are hiding behind their own civilians and using them as human shields, while Hamas launches rocket attacks into a city full of civilians.

      Muslims who are privileged enough to live in Canada and enjoy the benefits of a civilized country STILL head to the middle east to blow people up, or to operate in terror cells here in Canada. Sounds like the classic definition of a cult to me, man. Brainwashing otherwise sane, civilized people into becoming soulless murderers.

      The odd thing is, I personally have met and know Muslims who seem to be very decent folks. They follow the tenets of their religion and are very accommodating towards others. But because of what I see, with the extremists apparently operating unchallenged by mainstream Muslims, I have to wonder. Can I trust these apparently decent people? And the very fact that I have to even wonder that is very sad. Extremely sad, but I look at the world around me, and have to ask what option has been left open?

      Mainstream Muslims need to openly protest these actions that are being committed in the name of Islam. Barbarians cutting off people's heads in internet videos. All of it. And they need to protest this not in the ones and twos like they're doing now, but in the thousands. Millions. Show the rest of the world that this is NOT what Islam is about.

      Until that happens, I and everyone else in the Western world (other than the odd bleeding heart who thinks the terrorists are just misunderstood and need a hug (hai, Justin Trudeau!)) will never fully trust Muslims.

      When we see someone fully covered from head to foot with just an eye slit, we don't actually see someone practicing their religion. We see someone who has something to hide. And that immediately breeds distrust. That's just human nature, I'm not making excuses for being bigoted, or the currently politically correct catch-all word, "racist". And actually, there's nothing in the Koran or Islam that says you have to wear that. The only thing making you wear that is custom and your culture. Claiming you have to wear it for your religion is incorrect and misleading.

      Man, how can you tell I'm bored at work. Sorry for the darn essay.
    2. IBLeaf posted on 08/21/2014 12:12 PM
      @Angry Bill Well put.

      Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, only bacteria. But in that context perhaps the way the world is combatting Islamic extremism is a lot like attacking a virus with antibiotics. In the end there will always be people with evil intentions, but what the Islamic world needs is a revolution akin to a vaccine, where the ideology of terrorism (the virus) is driven away with new ways of thought (the vaccine) that don't include death, destruction and oppression.

      Nobody but Muslims can initiate and spread these ideologies, not Christians or from any other religion. If the Islamic world can take an example from their own of preaching/living a peaceful and prosperous life with equality and compassion towards themselves and their neighbours, and without oppressive violence, then maybe we will see the end of the evil we are seeing today. For that to happen it's going to take one hell of a non-violent movement or one hell of a bloody war but either way it MUST happen and the non-Muslim world must observe from afar, not interfere. Ironically I think if the Palestinians can renounce violence and lead a life of peaceful prosperity they could serve as their own light unto the nations.

      Remember, a virus that is too aggressive will kill its host and ultimately itself. Sure we may view Islam as barbaric and way behind the times, but Islam like any society or religion is ever evolving and perhaps we may end up witnessing a major event in this process.
    3. Stephen posted on 08/21/2014 03:36 PM
      @Angry Bill Bored or not, very well stated.
  3. AbbyW posted on 08/21/2014 12:45 PM
    Very good comments here. The situation is complex and it's history too long to delve into. The best that can happen is for prosperity to develop in Gaza. Once people start to enjoy a more prosperous life they're less likely to want it disrupted by war.

    In summary, the battle for peace will be between those who want to fight (Hamas) and those pushing for development and prosperity (who?). The West Bank has been enjoying peace and prosperity for a while now. The longer this happens the less likely war will erupt there.

    Let's hope prosperity wins!
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