LIVE UPDATES: Three senior Hamas commanders killed in Israeli strike on Rafah

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Israeli moderately-to-seriously wounded by mortar in Eshkol; Slain commanders Mohammed Abu Shamala and Raed Al-Attar were involved in Shalit and Goldin abductions.

Three Hamas commanders, two of them considered the most senior in the southern Gaza Strip, were killed early Thursday in an Israel Air Force strike, a day after the assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif, the military wing chief. Hamas has said that the IDF “failed” in its attempt on Deif’s life, but there is still no concrete evidence indicating whether he is dead or alive.

Rockets and mortar shell fire continued over the course of Thursday morning, moderately-to-seriously wounding an Israeli in the Eshkol Regional Council. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Wednesday deplored the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations.

More than 175 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday. In response, Israel struck some 110 targets in Gaza. Palestinian officials reported that 22 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded.

11:44 A.M. Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel writes that that the killing of two Hamas military commanders, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamala, could be the event that tilts the balance in the Gaza conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking such an event for some time. Israel has been trying to assassinate Hamas leaders from the start of hostilities in early July, but it had been unsuccessful until Wednesday.

11:35 The Israel Air Force attacked six Islamic Jihad activists poised to fire rockets at Israel from northern Gaza. The IDF said it identified a hit. The army has carried out attacks on more than 150 targets in Gaza since the truce ended on Tuesday. (Gili Cohen)

11:12 A.M. The military wing of Hamas announces it has fired a missile at Ben Gurion Airport. There is no confirmation from Israeli sources. (Jack Khoury)

11:07 A.M. The elimination of Hamas military commanders in Rafah was a “very complex intelligence operation that succeeded in producing results,” a senior Israeli security source says. Referring to the attempted assassination of Muhammad Deif, the source said, “The success is that we got to three targets in one day. That fact that we hit a place in which Deif was suspected to be is a fact. What exactly happened there, is not yet known.” (Gili Cohen)

11:00 A.M. Sirens sound in Ofakim and the Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon regions.

10:52 A.M. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri describes Israel’s strike on three leading military commanders of the organization as “a despicable crime for which Israel will pay dearly. The strike won’t break the resistance of the Palestinian people.” (Jack Khoury)

10:49 A.M. Condition of 33-year-old Israeli wounded by mortar shrapnel in Eshkol worsens; described as moderate to serious. (Shirley Seidler)

10:30 A.M. Six mortar shells land in Eshkol Regional Council, one person lightly wounded. (Shirley Seidler)

10:20 A.M. Mortar lands in open area in the Eshkol region. (Shirley Seidler)

10:18 A.M. Two mortars land in open ground in the Eshkol region. (Shirley Seidler)

10:17 A.M. The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Nazareth’s Radio al-Shams on Thursday that the Palestinians needed to change their strategy in the cease-fire negotiations with Israel. Israel’s refusal to proposals for an arrangement was preventing an political solution from emerging. “The policy of [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry ‘coming and going’ already proves that the process is not advancing, and that we can longer rely on one official to be the sole sponsor of the political process,” he said.

Abed Rabbo said he hoped that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting later in the day with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal in Doha and with Egyptian President Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo on Friday would lead to the opening of the Rafah crossing, as that was an issue not involving Israel. (Jack Khoury)

10:06 A.M. Ben-Gurion Airport is functioning as normal, despite Hamas threats to target it. There is a large police presence at the airport, but departures and arrivals are on schedule. (Ilan Lior)

9:27 A.M. Two of the Hamas militants killed by the IDF on Wednesday night, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamala, were regarded as the two top Hamas commanders in the southern Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet said.

Shamala was the most senior among them, and was involved in several attacks, including the 2006 Kerem Shalom incident during which two IDF soldiers were killed and Gilad Shalit was abducted.

The unit led by al-Attar was responsible for the killing and abduction of Lieut. Hadar Goldin during the first phase of the fighting and was involved in another incident in which IDF soldiers were killed.

During the first phase of the current operation, Shamala commanded the Sufa incident, in which three Hamas militants entered Israel via a tunnel. Attar was regarded by the Shin Bet as responsible for the construction of all the tunnels in the south of the Strip. He was also involved in the 2006 abduction and several other attacks conducted by the Hamas Rafah unit under his command. (Gili Cohen)

9:03 A.M. The Shin Bet confirms that an Israeli strike targeted the three Hamas commanders killed overnight in Rafah. (Gili Cohen)

8:54 A.M. Hamas says three of its commanders from the Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in Rafah were killed overnight in an Israel Air Force strike: Raed al-Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamala and Mohammed Barhoum. (Jack Khoury)

8:08 A.M. Eleven Palestinians arrested in the West Bank overnight. (Gili Cohen)

8:05 A.M. Mortar shells land in open ground in the Eshkol region. No damage reported.

7:56 A.M. Some 175 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel from Gaza since the end of the cease-fire on Tuesday. Of those, 135 fell in Israeli territory and 24 were shot down by the Iron Dome system. (Gili Cohen)

6:27 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza border.

3:00 A.M. Two rockets are intercepted over Ofakim. (Shirley Seidler)

2:50 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in the Be’er Sheva region.

2:20 A.M. The UN Security Council deplored the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant read a council statement Wednesday expressing “grave concern at the return to hostilities following the breach of the Egyptian-brokered humanitarian cease-fire.” He said the council calls upon the parties “to reach an immediate humanitarian cease-fire” and resume talks in Cairo.

Lyall Grant said Security Council members are discussing a possible resolution that would call for a sustainable cease-fire.

Jordan has circulated such a resolution, but Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar told reporters Wednesday that “we’re taking our time to talk to the Americans, to the Europeans” because “the whole idea is to have a Security Council that’s effective.” (AP)

2:00 A.M. A senior Hamas official boasted during a conference in Istanbul on Wednesday that the group’s military wing was behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.

11:52 P.M. A rocket explodes in an open area in Sderot. Another hits an open area in Ashdod. (Shirley Seidler)

11:10 P.M. The Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over Ashdod. (Shirley Seidler)

 

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