UK & World News

  • 20 August 2014, 12:48

Hamas Chief 'Deserves To Die Like Bin Laden'

An Israeli cabinet minister has said Hamas's military leader "deserves to die just like bin Laden", after an airstrike apparently targeting him left his wife and son dead.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio Mohammed Deif was a legitimate target, as Hamas and Israel's military carried out rocket attacks and airstrikes following the breakdown of the latest truce.

"He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him," Mr Saar said.

It was not clear if Mr Deif, who has escaped numerous Israeli assassination attempts in the past, was at home at the time of the latest attack.

The Islamist militant group later said he was alive.

The airstrike was one of around 60 carried out after Israel claimed three rockets fired by Hamas landed in open areas near the city of Beersheba on Tuesday.

The latest rocket attacks were condemned by Israel as a "grave and direct violation of the ceasefire" and the Israeli military said at least 80 rockets have been fired since the truce collapsed.

This came amid Egyptian efforts to mediate a longer-term truce to the conflict following a 24-hour extension to a temporary ceasefire secured on Monday.

The talks now hang in the balance; Israel has withdrawn its team from the indirect discussions, while Hamas officials said the chances of a durable ceasefire were "evaporating" and blamed the "Zionist occupation" for the lack of progress.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" over the breaking of the truce and security officials said Cairo is still pressing the two sides to agree on a ceasefire.

Since hostilities resumed, at least 16 Palestinians have been killed and more than 68 wounded in Israeli strikes, Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al Kidra said.

In a strike on the southern Gaza town of Deir el-Balah a pregnant woman, three children and two men were killed, emergency services said.

A further 21 people were injured in a separate airstrike that hit a building housing offices of Hamas's Al Asqa TV station.

Another killed a Palestinian man north of Gaza City, medics said.

Around 2,000 reserve soldiers who were sent home two weeks ago have been called up again for duty, the military said.

Hamas has threatened to fire more rockets at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on Wednesday, saying the group had "decided to respond to the Israeli aggression" by making the airport a "target of attack" for the day.

Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israeli cities on Wednesday, warning of incoming rockets from Gaza, after Hamas accused Israel of opening a "gateway to hell".

Israel's civil defence authority has ordered the reopening of public bomb shelters within 50 miles (80 km) of Gaza.

Israel's military said it targeted two Palestinian militants after they fired rockets at Israel. The Palestinian Red Crescent said they were killed.

Shortly afterwards a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in southern Israel, causing damage to the home but no injuries.

Since the war began, more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, according to Palestinian and UN officials.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a worker from Thailand have also died.