Hamas warns airlines to avoid flying into Tel Aviv
Published 21/08/2014 | 02:30
Hamas warned international airlines against flying into Tel Aviv yesterday after Israel launched an air strike targeting its top military commander.
The Islamist group denied that Mohammed Deif, the leader of the al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in the raid on Gaza, but went on to apparently threaten flights to Ben Gurion airport.
"We are warning international airlines and press them to stop flying into Ben Gurion airport from 6.00am Thursday," said an al-Qassam Brigades spokesman.
Thousands of mourners took to the streets of Gaza yesterday for the funeral of Mr Deif's wife and seven-month-old child, but Hamas officials insisted that the commander had not been killed in the raid on Tuesday night. "You have failed and you have missed," said a Hamas spokesman in a statement.
But question marks remained over an as-yet unidentified dead body of a male in his 50s which was found in the rubble of the bombed house.
Yesterday, a Hamas spokesman is said to have referred to Mr Deif as "shaheed", a term in Arabic to denote a martyr, on at least one occasion during interviews, fuelling suspicions.
The speculation comes as the bloody violence between Israel and Hamas resumed yesterday. In Gaza, at least 20 people died in Israeli air strikes, raising the total killed to more than 2,030 since the beginning of the conflict on July 8.
In Israel, residents in the south of the country scrambled for cover as rocket fire increased. Since the most recent ceasefire was breached on Tuesday, more than 180 rockets have been launched from the coastal enclave towards Israel, of which 34 were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Hamas also claimed it had fired two rockets aimed at Israeli gas fields 19 miles off the coast of Gaza, in what would be the first such attack. Israel said no rockets had struck any gas platforms.
Ceasefire talks in Cairo - which had been continuing for almost six days - were declared to be over by both sides yesterday and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators left the Egyptian capital.
The targeting of Mr Deif signals a return to Israel's strategy of the tactical assassinations of enemy leaders. In 2012, the previous Gaza conflict began after Israel targeted and killed the Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari.
While the assassination attempt was applauded by many cabinet ministers, some commentators expressed doubts as to what such actions aimed to achieve.
"There is no certainty that without Deif it will be better than it is with him, in the internal power relations in Hamas's leadership and in the policy it sets in relation to Israel," wrote Amir Oren, a senior correspondent for the Haaretz newspaper.
Mr Deif's house in Khan Younis was bombed by Israel almost four weeks ago, but military chiefs said at the time that the attack was meant as a warning message to the military commander, who is believed to have spent most of the war in deep tunnels in Gaza.
Before becoming the head of Hamas's military wing, Mr Deif was involved in the kidnapping and killing of Israeli soldiers and masterminded at least two suicide bomb attacks on public buses in Jerusalem. In 2002, he was seriously injured in a missile attack on his car.
The following year, Israelis bombed a house where the entire Hamas leadership was meeting, although all the men targeted managed to escape. In 2©006, an Israeli attack destroyed the entire house at which Mr Deif was located with other Hamas figures, reportedly leaving him paralysed. (©The Daily Telegraph