Hamas to Free Palestine: Haniyeh

A day after Israel killed three of its top militant commanders in targeted strikes, Hamas today said the Islamist faction will only get "strengthened" in its quest to lift the siege on Gaza.

"Our people and our brave commanders have set a goal of lifting the siege on Gaza and liberating all of Jerusalem and Palestine from the neo-Nazi occupier who only destroys houses and kills women and children," Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' former Palestinian Prime Minister said.

Haniyeh released a statement hours after the assassination which was read aloud on Hamas' television network.

The three field commanders killed, Mohammed Abu Shamala, Mohammed Barhoum and Raed al-Attar, were key to Hamas operations including smuggling, tunnel construction and also played a role in capturing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, who was later released in a swap deal.

The Hamas leader said he "was saddened over the deaths of our brothers and commanders who went on the path of great ones."

He said the Islamist faction will get "strengthened" in its quest "to lift the siege on Gaza" and liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from Israel.

"We want to emphasise that despite the pain of their loss, the history of the Hamas movement has proven more than once that it is stronger after every targeted killing of one of its senior member. After a senior operative is killed, we continue on our path without hesitating or stepping back," he said.

Haniyeh also claimed that his armed wing has made Israel pay a dear price both inside and outside Gaza.

Three senior field commanders of the Islamist faction were killed in Israeli airstrikes over a building yesterday, a development that has been described by some analysts as a game changer in the ongoing fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

The armed wing of Hamas has executed eleven Palestinians suspected of "spying" for Israel in the wake of the killings.

Israel's intelligence services rely on Palestinian informers largely in carrying out their targeted assassinations.

Some 38 Palestinians were killed in Gaza yesterday, including the three senior Hamas military commanders who were targeted in Rafah.

Over 2,087 Palestinians have been killed and 10,500 injured in Israel's military offensive, a spokesman for Gaza's health said.

Two rockets were intercepted over Ashkelon around noon today by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, security sources said.

Sixty seven people, 64 of them soldiers, have died in Israel since July 8 when the Jewish state launched Operation Protective Edge to stop rocket attacks from Gaza on its southern communities.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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