GOTCHA! IDF takes out Hamas’s rocket chief

Hamas reports: Strike that targeted Yahiya Abiya also killed 11 civilians, raising death toll to at least 60, with hundreds wounded.



The Iron Dome intercepted two long-range rockets fired at Tel Aviv on Sunday evening. No injuries or damage was reported, police say.

Hamas claimed responsibility for firing at the city.

It was the second strike on Israel’s commercial capital on Sunday. In the earlier attack, one person was hurt by falling debris from a rocket that was intercepted south of the city.

Smoke rises after an IAF strike in Gaza [file] – Photo: REUTERS

On Sunday afternoon, the IDF assassinated the head of Hamas’s rocket program, Yahiya Abiya in an airstrike. The assassination was directly ordered by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

Army sources say that Byya was directly responsible for the majority of rockets that have been fired on Israel.

An IDF spokesman said that during the day Sunday the IDF attacked over fifty terrorist targets, including rocket launching infrastructure and smuggling tunnels.

The IDF confirmed communications infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip used by the Hamas terrorist organization was also attacked.

According to Palestinian sources, the strike which hit Byya also killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the highest death toll in a single incident in five days of fighting. The casualties included six children and four women in the attack on a three-story building, medics say. The house reportedly belonged to a Hamas official.

Shortly after, another strike on a vehicle killed two in Jabaliya on Sunday, according to Ma’an.

Ma’an also reported that the number of Palestinian casualties rose to at least 60 on Sunday, with hundreds wounded.

Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

The airforce has taken every measure possible to try and avoid harming Palestinian non-combatants, including precision strikes and issuing warnings to civilians. Hamas often employs the tactics of using civilians as human shields.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in the military showdown with Hamas.

On Sunday morning, the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings were opened to allow the passage of goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired dozens of rockets toward a number of Israeli cities Sunday, striking among others, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot. At least ten civilians were injured.

At a cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had launched over 1,000 military strikes in the Strip since the beginning of the operation Wednesday.

Since the start of the operation on Wednesday, over 520 Palestinian rockets exploded in Israeli territory. A small percentage of those exploded in urban areas.

The Israeli Navy bombarded targets from the sea and an air raid targeted a building in Gaza City overnight Saturday housing media agencies and television stations, wounding six journalists from Iran’s PressTV and al-Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.

IDF Spokeswoman Avital Leibovich on Sunday briefed foreign press about the media building strike, saying “we obviously know there are journalists in the building, so we did not attack any other floor,” according to an audio recording of the briefing.

The IDF said it was targeting a “transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity.” Britain’s Sky News and Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV were damaged in the attack. Journalists from Al-Aqsa TV and Iran’s PressTV were injured.

Leibovich added that her advice to journalists in Hamas-administered Gaza, is to “stay away from any Hamas positions, Hamas sites, or Hamas posts for their own safety.”

Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee camp killed two and wounded 12 other people, medical officials said. According to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency, the IAF also struck several targets connected to the Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas’s military wing.

Medics report 539 people have been injured in Gaza since Wednesday, according to Ma’an.

More than 500 of the approximately 900 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.

Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

The IDF has since launched more than 1,000 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening terrorists’ homes and headquarters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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