In what the Shin Bet security service dubbed as one of the most successful intelligence-based operations since the assault on Gaza began last week, four senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists were hit during an airstrike on a high-rise in downtown Gaza City where a number of local and foreign news organizations have offices.
Thick black smoke rose from the al- Shorouq building Monday as ambulances rushed to the scene. It's the second strike on the building in two days. The Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, is located on the top floor.
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Palestinian officials said one Islamic Jihad terrorist was killed and others were injured in the strike. Islamic Jihad identified the dead man was Ramiz Harb, one of its senior commanders. Palestinians als reported that another person, Salem Sewilem, was killed in the attack.
Blast in al- Shorouq building (Photo: EPA)
Bahu al-Ata, an Islamic Jihad commander who is involved in the incessant firing of rockets toward Israel, was also in the building during the attack. Another terrorist, Taysir Jabari, is a member of Islamic Jihad's military council. He has orchestrated numerous attacks on Israel.
The third terrorist hit in the strike was identified as Hallil Bahatini, a senior Islamic Jihad commander who has also played a key role in the rocket fire on Israel's south.
Another operative injured in the attack is Ramez Harb, 36, who is the PR chief in Gaza. Foreign journalists were likely also in the building at the time of the attack. The Palestinians said that two photographers were injured, one of them an Al-Arabiya employee.
Four Jihad operatives hit in the strike (Photo; EPA)
Escalating its bombing campaign, Israel on Sunday began attacking homes of activists in Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. These attacks have led to a sharp spike in civilian casualties, killing 24 civilians in just under two days and doubling the number of civilians killed in the conflict, a Gaza health official said.
Hamas terrorists, meanwhile, have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in the current round of fighting, including 75 on Monday, among them one that hit an empty school. Twenty rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile battery, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Rockets landed in open areas of Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon. Schools in southern Israel have been closed since the start of the offensive Wednesday.
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The new airstrikes came as Egypt was trying to broker a cease-fire, with the help of Turkey and Qatar.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers were expected in Gaza on Tuesday. However, Israel and Hamas appeared far apart in their demands, and a quick end to the fighting seemed unlikely.
Overall, the offensive that began Wednesday killed 94 Palestinians, including 50 civilians, and wounded some 720 people, Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Among the wounded were 225 children, he said.
On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens have been wounded. An Israeli rocket-defense system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas.
AP contributed to the report