Israeli airstrike kills three sons of Hamas political leader in Gaza as ceasefire talks stutter

Three sons of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza Wednesday, with Haniyeh insisting their deaths would not affect ongoing ceasefire and hostage talks.

Four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren were also killed in the attack, according to Hamas, which comes amid fresh efforts in Cairo to bring a temporary halt to months of fighting.

Haniyeh in a statement said killing the sons of leaders would only make Hamas “more steadfast in our principles and adherence to our land.”

“Whoever thinks that by targeting my kids during the negotiation talks and before a deal is agreed upon that it will force Hamas to back down on its demands, is delusional,” he added.

The Israeli military confirmed it carried out the attack, describing the men as “three Hamas military operatives that conducted terrorist activity in the central Gaza Strip.”

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Security Agency (ISA), those killed were Amir Haniyeh, a cell commander in Hamas’ military wing, and Hamas military operatives Mohammad Haniyeh and Hazem Haniyeh.

The three were killed when the vehicle they were driving in was bombed in the Al Shati refugee camp, northwest of Gaza City, Hamas political leader Haniyeh told Al Jazeera.

The IDF told CNN it is aware of claims that other relatives of Haniyeh were harmed, among them a minor. The IDF added it had not verified this information.

Hamas named the four grandchildren as Mona, Amal, Khalid and Razan, calling them “martyrs.”

The Hamas-run government media office (GMO) said Wednesday that the Haniyeh family had been “carrying out social and family visits on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr,” before the vehicle was struck.

Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar, said Hamas was not afraid of a planned Israeli invasion of Rafah, in the southernmost part of the besieged enclave. About 1.5 million people are estimated to be sheltering in the bombarded city after fleeing fighting.

Hamas would “not surrender, and […] not compromise […] no matter how great our sacrifices are,” Haniyeh added.

Israeli officials drew a distinction between the airstrike that killed Haniyeh’s sons and the ongoing negotiations aiming to secure a ceasefire and hostage deal.

“The operation is not related to the negotiations on the release of the hostages,” one Israeli official said. “Israel will continue and eliminate every terrorist/terrorist operatives.”

Two other Israeli officials said neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had been told about the strike ahead of time.

International pressure to reach a ceasefire deal is mounting as the devastation and suffering in Gaza from Israel’s blockade on aid and widespread destruction of the strip worsens and half the population live with catastrophic levels of hunger. More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

CIA Director Bill Burns has presented a new proposal to try to bridge the gaps in ongoing negotiations to broker a deal to bring about a ceasefire and the release of the Israeli hostages, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

The latest US proposal was made in Cairo over the weekend and includes pushing Israel to release a higher number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the expected 40 Israeli hostages who would be freed during the first phase of a three-stage ceasefire deal.

However, Hamas on Wednesday indicated it is currently unable to identify and track down 40 Israeli hostages needed for the first phase of a ceasefire deal, according to an Israeli official and a source familiar with the discussions, raising fears that more hostages may be dead than is publicly known.

The majority of the almost 100 hostages who remain alive are believed to be male IDF soldiers or men of military reserve age. The Israeli prime minister’s office said Wednesday that of the 129 hostages from the October 7 attack currently held, 33 are dead.


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