Hamas condemns 'dirty' strike on Haniyeh's sons as Israel expands ground attacks

Smotrich says army has begun 'operation' in Nuseirat refugee camp, where five were killed on Thursday morning

Three of Ismail Haniyeh's sons killed in Israeli strike

Three of Ismail Haniyeh's sons killed in Israeli strike
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Hamas has denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for using “dirty tools” in his country's war in Gaza after the army killed three sons of the group's leader, Ismail Haniyeh, on Wednesday night.

Several of Mr Haniyeh's grandchildren were also killed in an attack on their vehicle near the Beach refugee camp, as they travelled to see relatives on the first day of Eid Al Fitr.

Mr Haniyeh was filmed learning of the attack while visiting a hospital in Doha, Qatar, where he is based. He said any belief it would change Hamas's position at ceasefire talks was “delusional”.

“If they [Israel] think that targeting my children … at the peak of these talks and before the movement's response, if they think that this will force Hamas to change its positions, they are delusional,” Mr Haniyeh said.

Hamas said Mr Netanyahu had failed in what the group called his attempts to sabotage the talks.

“Netanyahu has failed in the last few weeks to spoil the negotiations and he is under pressure from the Americans, the international community, and internal Israeli society,” said Hamas politburo member Basem Naim.

Mr Netanyahu “is now using all the dirty tools – by killing our children, our wives, and by assassinating leaders or some people in Damascus … he is insisting on undermining any chance to reach a ceasefire agreement,” Mr Naim told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

Widespread reports in Israeli media suggest Mr Netanyahu and his war cabinet were not briefed on the strike, with the Israeli army saying the men were attacked for being Hamas members, not for being Mr Haniyeh's sons.

Military sources told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that unapproved strikes have become commonplace since the war began in October, while others said the strike is likely to hinder talks on a ceasefire.

The army and the Shin Bet intelligence agency did not notify Mr Netanyahu or Defence Minister Yoav Gallant about the strike, several Israeli outlets reported. The army's southern command was also not told about the strike, which was reportedly approved by a field commander.

Hamas said Mr Haniyeh had received condolences from Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“President Erdogan stressed that Israel will definitely be held to account before law for the crimes of humanity it has been committing,” the Turkish presidency said in a social media post.

The strike comes as Israel expands its attacks across northern and central Gaza, as well as the southern city of Rafah, which is under the threat of a full-scale invasion.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel had begun an operation in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Thursday – a claim not immediately confirmed by the military.

“We will have to continue to fight terrorism and deepen the operations in Rafah, Deir Al Balah and Nuseirat – part of this starts today,” Mr Smotrich told Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

“It was right to enter Rafah already, we must increase the military pressure,” he added.

At least five people were killed in Israeli air strikes on a home and a school in the Nuseirat camp, while intense shelling also hit two of the camp's mosques, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Israeli tanks also entered the camp from the direction of Gaza's major Salah Al Din road, and overnight strikes were launched at several areas in Rafah, Wafa said.

While Israel faces renewed criticism over its killing of Mr Haniyeh's family members and the mounting death toll in Gaza, the US has vowed “ironclad” support for its ally amid threats from Tehran.

President Joe Biden said Washington had reassured the Israeli government after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted on Wednesday that Israel would face punishment for a strike on Tehran's embassy compound in Damascus.

The April 1 strike killed several senior members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including Mohammed Reza Zahedi, head of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel's security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” Mr Biden said.

“Let me say it again – ironclad. We're going to do all we can to protect Israel's security.”

Updated: April 11, 2024, 11:41 AM