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Hamas military head alive as Gaza conflict continues

Posted on Aug 20 2014 | IANS

Gaza, Aug 20 : Islamist movement Hamas said Wednesday its military wing commander Mohammed Deif is alive and still issuing orders in the fight against Israel in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports.

Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday night targeted Deif's house in the Gaza city, an Israeli official told Channel 2 TV channel Wednesday.

Hamas did not disclose immediately whether Deif had survived the airstrikes but Hamas's exiled deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk told reporters in Cairo that his wife and daughter were killed in the strike.

A spokesperson of the Israeli prime minister's office declined to comment on the report. A military spokesperson said Israel's airforce Tuesday night targeted some 60 "terror sites across the Gaza Strip", but declined to comment on any specific target.

However, Ya'akov Perry, cabinet minister and former chief of the Shin Bet Israeli security service, told Ynet website news that Deif was a "legitimate target".

"If Israel is behind the attack, then it is a step in right direction -- Hamas leaders should know they are not immune."

According to the Shin Bet, Deif has been the commander of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, since its former leader, Yahya Ayyash, was assassinated by Israel in 1996.

Israel has accused Deif of being the mastermind behind several attacks against Israelis, including the kidnapping and murder of a soldier, Nachshon Wachsman, in 1994.

Deif survived at least four assassination attempts, which left him with severe disability.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also issued a statement, saying Israelis would not be safe until Deif decided so.

"The occupation will pay for its crimes against Palestinian civilians and those living around the Gaza border will not return home until Mohammed Deif decides so," he said.

Earlier, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page calling for military operations to topple Hamas.

Meanwhile, fighting continued between Israel and the Hamas-led Gaza militant groups after a six-day ceasefire, which was brokered by Egypt, while the talks for a more enduring truce deal in the Egyptian capital of Cairo are crumbling.

Israeli war jets' missiles killed from midnight till Wednesday morning 19 Palestinians and wounded 120 others in the Gaza Strip, reducing a number of civilian residents to rubble, eyewitnesses said.

Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza health ministry spokesman, told reporters that eight people from a family were killed when Israeli war jets struck their houses in central Gaza Strip town of Deit el-Ballah.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas's armed wing, said in separate text messages sent to reporters that it fired dozens of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel after the collapse of the ceasefire.

Indirect talks between the two sides that are sponsored by Egypt had stopped after Israel accused the Palestinians of violating the ceasefire and firing three rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

"In spite of fraud and deception our negotiations team had faced, we still consider ourselves in a status of a meeting until achieving the demands of our people," Musa Abu Marzooq, chief of the Hamas delegation in the talks in Cairo, said in a press statement.

"The Israeli delegation is fully responsible for all the crimes committed against our people. Certainly, the Israeli, procrastination and prevarication blocked every chance and wasted time in order not to let the talks succeed," he added.

Also Wednesday, the al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing rockets at an Israeli gas station in the shores of the Gaza Strip.

The group said in a text message sent to reporters that around noon its militants fired two medium-range rockets towards the main Israeli gas station 26 km away from Gaza beaches, vowing more surprise attacks against Israel.

Since the start of Israel's military campaign in Gaza July 8 dubbed Operation Protective Edge, around 2,037 Palestinians and 68 Israelis have been killed and more than 10,000 wounded.

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