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Israel Targets Hamas Leaders and Field Commanders

Posted December. 31, 2008 05:31,   


With massive airstrikes on the Gaza Strip entering their fourth straight day, Israel’s offensive is getting more sophisticated in targeting Hamas leaders and field commanders. The airstrikes have killed or injured 2,000 over four days.

The Associated Press said that Israeli warplanes destroyed five Hamas government buildings, wounding 40 people Tuesday. The Islamic militant group has operated its own government since it seized the Gaza Strip in June last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled an all-out war, saying, “The air strikes so far are the first stage of our response.”

Israeli aircraft bombed Monday areas around the residence of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and fired missiles into houses of field commanders of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad.

Israel has long tracked the whereabouts of Hamas leaders and gathered information including their residences. Based on the intelligence, Israeli bombers made precision attacks on their homes.

One of the main targets of the two-day air offensive was Maher Zaqout, a commander with Hamas` Izzidin al-Qassam brigades. He escaped but two high-ranking Hamas leaders were killed, said the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Since Saturday, the deadliest air offensive has destroyed 325 major facilities in Gaza, killed 360 people and wounded 1,690, according to AFP. The United Nations said more than 62 civilians were killed in the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hamas retaliated by firing more than 250 rockets into Israeli territory, killing five people including one soldier.

With the number of casualties rising, Egypt partially opened yesterday its border with Gaza to let in 32 wounded Palestinians. Cairo said it is willing to accommodate up to 500 patients.

Israel also allowed the same day 109 trucks carrying emergency supplies from the United Nations, Turkey and Jordan to enter the Gaza Strip.