Khan Younis: Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, killing one of its top leaders and two other militants in an airstrike in the central Gaza Strip. The Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group, confirmed the death of Ayman Nofel, also known as Abu Mohammed, who was the commander of its Central Brigade and a former head of its military intelligence.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they had “eliminated a senior Hamas terrorist, Ayman Nofal”. The IDF also released a video of the strike that hit the Bureji refugee camp, where Nofel was hiding. The IDF said that Nofel was involved in many attacks against Israeli civilians, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. The IDF vowed to continue its operation until Hamas is defeated.
The assassination of Nofel came hours before US President Joe Biden landed in Israel for a visit aimed at restoring calm in the region after 11 days of fighting that killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians. Biden is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ways to end the violence and resume peace talks.
However, Israel showed no signs of easing its pressure on Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, Israel bombed several areas in southern Gaza, where it had warned residents to evacuate ahead of a possible ground invasion. The airstrikes killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel said that it targeted Hamas’s tunnels, rocket launchers and weapons depots. The Gaza Strip has been under siege by Israel since Hamas seized power in 2007 and has faced severe shortages of water, electricity, and medical supplies.