12 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes; Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu says ‘Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas’
At least 12 Palestinians, including a top Hamas financial official, were killed on Sunday in Israeli air strikes on Gaza as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the military offensive as long as necessary.
Israel took its military campaign to a new level by flattening a 13-storey apartment tower in Gaza following a warning to residents to evacuate.
The strikes in the southern town of Rafah came just hours after Israel bombed an apartment tower in Gaza City, collapsing the 12-storey building with 44 apartments. Around 30 people were wounded but no one was killed, officials said.
The targeting of large buildings appears to be part of a new military tactic by Israel. Over the weekend, the army began warning Gaza residents in automated phone calls that it would target buildings harbouring “terrorist infrastructure” and that they should stay away.
The air force attack killed Hamas operative Muhammad Al-Aoul in northern Gaza, the latest senior member of Hamas targeted in recent days. Army sources described him as a key figure in Hamas’s finances division.
The strike came days after the IDF killed three senior Hamas commanders in the Rafah area last week and killed the wife and son of Hamas military leader Muhamad Deif. Hamas has denied reports that Deif himself was killed in the strike.
Another Israeli air strike killed a mother and three children from the same family in northern Gaza today, medics said. The strike hit a home near Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory, emergency spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, taking today’s death toll in Gaza to at least 12.
Earlier, Israeli air strikes killed eight Palestinians in Gaza, including a one-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy, as militants kept up rocket fire into Israel.
Likening Hamas to the brutal Islamic State (IS) terror group in Iraq, Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to continue with Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza “until all of its goals are achieved and this can take time”.
“We decided that there will be no immunity for anyone who fires rockets, and that is relevant for every front and any person,” Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting in reference to rocket fire at Israel.
“We are not alone in this – Hamas is ISIS (IS) and ISIS is Hamas…these are groups that execute their own members and have no issue killing children. Hamas recently admitted to kidnapping and killing Eyal, Naftali and Gilad (the three Israeli teenagers) and the world is wising up to this with every passing day,” Netanyahu said.
Addressing growing anger by residents of Israel’s south, who were told that they could return home before ceasefire efforts collapsed and fighting started anew, Netanyahu said that he respects their endurance and feels their pain.
“Our enemies will not exhaust us, and they will receive attrition instead. We will continue to hit Hamas and Gaza terror groups,” the Israeli Premier asserted.
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza since the start of Israel’s military operation on July 8, is now well over 2,100 with more than 10,500 injured.
68 Israelis have died, 64 of them soldiers, and the Jewish state has come under heavy rocket and mortar attack.