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A top Hamas leader was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Wednesday — as Israel Defense Forces appeared poised for a possible ground invasion amid rising tensions.
Bassem Issa, the Islamic terror group’s highest-ranking military official in Gaza, was among the Hamas leaders killed when a downtown high-rise housing the group’s offices was leveled by Israeli bombs, Fox News said in a report.
Among the other Hamas leaders killed in the bombing were its head of cyber command, Jamaa Tahla; Jamal Zabeda, head of research for the group; and chief engineer Nazzem Hatib, the Times of Israel said.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, said 10 other Hamas operatives involved in weapons production and research were also killed.
The announcement comes as Israel continues to take a strong stance, saying it is willing to escalate the conflict in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on Tel Aviv and the surrounding area in the third day of fighting.
“We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
“We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.”
Israeli commanders also said three infantry brigades are “preparing for a worst-case scenario” in the conflict, suggesting a ground invasion could follow the aerial bombardment, according to the New York Times.
Israeli forces have already moved into the Lydd District with a mission to quell Palestinian unrest.
Footage from the city posted on Twitter by the Institute for Middle East Understanding shows hundreds of Israeli soldiers marching through the city.
Meanwhile, Hamas official Fathi Hammad urged militants to “cut off the heads of Jews,” according to reports.
Israeli airstrikes have razed three high-rise buildings in Gaza, including the one where the Hamas officials were killed — with Hamas launching missiles at Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian rockets on Wednesday killed Staff Sgt. Omier Tabib, 21, a member of Israel’s Nahal Infantry Bridgade’s 931st Battalion, the Times of Israel said.
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