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Israel checks reports Hamas military No.2 Issa killed in Gaza

March 11, 2024 at 7:23 pm

Smoke rises over the residential area following the Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 09, 2024. [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

Israel was checking, on Monday, whether Hamas’s deputy military leader had been killed in an airstrike in Gaza, Israeli media said, as prospects faded of talks securing a ceasefire to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Reuters reports.

If his death is confirmed, Marwan Issa will be the highest-ranking official from the Hamas movement killed by Israel in five months of war that have pulverised the coastal enclave and killed thousands of Palestinians.

Issa, known as the ‘Shadow Man’ for his ability to stay out of sight, was one of three top Hamas leaders who planned the 7 October attack on Israel that triggered the war and are believed to have been directing Hamas’s military operations since then.

Israeli Army Radio said the Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza had been bombed on Saturday night following intelligence about the location of Issa, second-in-command of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades.

WATCH: Displaced Palestinian children celebrate the start of Ramadan in Gaza

The attack killed five people, the report said.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported that Israel was checking whether the fatalities included Issa.

A Palestinian source said the Israelis had hit a place where they thought Issa was hiding, but could give no details of his fate. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Hamas officials did not immediately comment on the media reports.

On Sunday, in a statement rounding up operations from the previous 24 hours, Israel said its forces had killed militants in central Gaza, but did not mention the camp.

“There still aren’t indications with certainty,” Chili Tropper, an Israeli cabinet minister, said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 television on Monday.

“If, indeed, Marwan Issa was eliminated, who in many ways is Hamas’s military chief of staff, it’s a great achievement by the IDF and Shin Bet [Israeli security agency],” he said. “I still don’t know if he was eliminated. I’m waiting patiently to receive the indications.”

Issa on Israel’s ‘most wanted’ list 

Issa is on Israel’s “most wanted” list, together with Mohammed Deif, Commander of the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades, and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Yahya Sinwar.

Fighters from Hamas, which administers Gaza, killed 1,200 people in the 7 October attack and took 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since then, according to Gaza authorities, while infrastructure has been obliterated and hundreds of thousands are close to famine.

Issa’s death, if confirmed, could also complicate efforts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages, although Israel says talks are continuing through Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Hamas blames Israel for refusing to give guarantees to end the war and withdraw troops. Israel wants a temporary truce to allow an exchange of hostages, but has said it will not stop its war until it has defeated Hamas.

WATCH: Ismail Haniyeh says Israel not committed to ending war on Gaza

Negotiators had wanted a halt in hostilities for Ramadan, which began on Monday, but an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City killed 16 people and wounded several others, Palestinian health officials said.

Two Palestinians were also killed in an airstrike on a house in Khan Yunis as residents were breaking the first day of the Ramadan fast, Gaza health officials said.

The IDF did not immediately comment on those incidents. But it said its forces had killed about 15 militants in close combat and airstrikes in central Gaza and that commandos had targeted sites believed to be used by Hamas militants in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Pro-Palestinian groups elsewhere continued to make their presence felt. Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it had launched several drones at an outpost in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Monday, and two other incidents were reported in Red Sea waters where Yemen’s Houthis have been attacking ships.

Guterres appeals for truce, hostage release, aid 

The conflict has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, with many cramped into makeshift tents with little in the way of food or basic medical supplies in the southern city of Rafah.

United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, appealed for a truce in Gaza, the release of hostages and the removal of obstacles to life-saving aid. He said a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah could put the people of Gaza in “an even deeper circle of hell”.

The United Nations estimates a quarter of the population is at risk of starvation, and iS barely scratching the surface of daily needs. Aid agencies are now focusing their efforts on delivering aid by sea and through air drops.

Jordanian state media said there had been seven humanitarian air drops on Monday, with Jordan, the US, Egypt, France and Belgium taking part. Morocco was also scheduled to join the effort, Israeli media reported.

The US military said it had parachuted more than 27,600 meals and 25,900 bottles of water into northern Gaza.

A government source in Cyprus said a vessel carrying 200 tonnes of aid was scheduled to set sail on Monday. The US military said its vessel, the “General Frank S. Besson”, was also en route to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza by sea.

Senior Hamas official, Basem Naim, welcomed the aid corridor but urged the United States to work to end the war.

WATCH: Former senior Israeli official says that Netanyahu is attempting to avoid reaching an exchange deal with Hamas