Israel Announces New Attack on Hamas After Killing Top Leader’s Sons in Airstrike

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The Israeli military announced what it called a precise operation to kill members of Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, a day after a strike there killed relatives of one of the group’s most senior leaders.

Ismail Haniyeh, who leads the political wing of Hamas from exile, said three of his sons had been killed in the Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza on Wednesday. Hamas-affiliated media reported that three of Mr. Haniyeh’s grandchildren also were killed in the attack.

On Thursday, Israel’s military said that its forces had carried out a “precise, intelligence-based operation” in central Gaza overnight with fighter jets and ground troops to “eliminate terrorist operatives and strike terrorist infrastructure.”

It was not immediately clear whether the operation was related to the strike a day earlier against Mr. Haniyeh’s sons, who the Israeli military said had been “on their way to carry out terrorist activities in central Gaza.” It did not provide further details, and the military’s claims could not be verified.

The Israeli military said that the three Haniyeh sons it killed — Amir, Mohammad and Hazem — were active in Hamas’s military operations, Amir as a cell commander and his brothers as lower-level operatives. One of the brothers was also involved in holding hostages, the Israeli military said, without specifying which one.

The strike came as international negotiators worked to broker a cease-fire in Gaza and to secure the release of hostages held in the enclave. Those talks have stalled over disagreements about the details, with a senior Hamas official saying Wednesday that the group did not have 40 living hostages who met the criteria for an exchange under the proposal being discussed.

While Mr. Haniyeh is one of Hamas’s most senior officials, analysts said that his sons were less integral to the operation — and that their killings appeared mainly aimed at sending a message to the group’s leadership amid cease-fire negotiations.

“His son’s names are not usually floated around when you talk about seniority in Hamas, whether it’s the political or military wing,” said Tahani Mustafa, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, a think tank.

Ms. Mustafa said that the timing of the strike made it seem like an effort to derail the talks.

But Bilal Saab, an associate fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, said the strike might have been intended to placate a domestic audience after six months of war, or to give Israel leverage in the talks.

“It’s a political win for Israel more than anything else,” Mr. Saab said.

Mr. Haniyeh said on Wednesday that Israel was “delusional if it thinks that by killing my children, we will change our positions” in negotiations.

Active fighting in Gaza has ebbed to its lowest point since November. Israel withdrew troops from southern Gaza over the weekend, but said the military would stay in other parts of Gaza to preserve its “freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations.”

The military’s stated emphasis on precision comes as international criticism of the war in Gaza intensifies over the rising Palestinian death toll and warnings of famine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that a date has been set for a ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, an operation U.S. officials have warned would be catastrophic for civilians. Some analysts have suggested that his threats are bluster or attempts at gaining leverage in the cease-fire negotiations.

The Biden administration has urged Mr. Netanyahu to shelve the invasion plans and focus on “alternative approaches that would target the key elements of Hamas.”

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