ISRAEL will not stop its military operation in Gaza until “complete quiet” has been achieved, the country’s defence minister has said, as airstrikes and rocket fire continued throughout Wednesday.
The Israeli military said it had killed four senior Hamas commanders and a dozen more Hamas operatives in a series of strikes. It said it had undertaken a “complex and first-of-its-kind operation” jointly with the Shin Bet security service.
The dead included Bassem Issa, the Gaza City Brigade commander, the head of the cyber-command and the head of Hamas’s production network, said a security agency statement.
“We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning,” said the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.”
The Israeli military would use “increasing force”, he added.
Hamas’s armed wing later confirmed the death of a senior commander and a number of fighters. “The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades take pride in … the martyrdom of the commander Bassem Issa,” a statement said.
The killings are likely to harden Hamas’s resolve to continue its rocket assaults on Israel. After the Israeli military operation, Hamas fired 50 rockets towards Ashdod, a city close to the Gaza border. Sirens sounded every few minutes on Wednesday afternoon in towns and communities close to the border.
As the death toll from the most serious conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for nine years mounted throughout the day, international leaders called for restraint amid fears of a full-scale war.