Israel trying to establish if it has killed in air strike third highest member of Hamas in Gaza

Fighting continues in Gaza after international mediators fail to secure new ceasefire to coincide with start of Ramadan

Israel was attempting to establish on Monday whether it had killed the third highest ranking member of Hamas in Gaza in an air strike on Saturday that was reported to have killed five Palestinians and injured 10 others.

The Israeli military attacked a building in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip based on intelligence that Marwam Issa was in a tunnel beneath the structure, which was destroyed. Palestinian sources in Gaza said Israel attacked the Hamas rescue teams as soon as they arrived on the scene to make sure that Mr Issa was killed.

Mr Issa is the deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing and his elimination would be considered Israel’s most significant intelligence and operational success since the start of its war with Hamas on October 7th.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday, in a recorded video, that Israel had “eliminated the number four in Hamas, and numbers three, two and one are on their way. They are all sons of death; we will reach them all.”


The somewhat cryptic message was presumed to be a reference to the drone attack in Beirut in January in which senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri was killed. Mr Issa would be number three on the list.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 31,100 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th. Up to 134 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are alive.

Fighting continues in Gaza after international mediators failed to secure a new ceasefire to coincide with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Monday. With its operations in Khan Younis drawing to a close it remains to be seen if Israel will extend its campaign to the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million war refugees have sought refuge.

In an interview with Fox News, Mr Netanyahu referred to US president Joe Biden’s statement that “an attack in Rafah would be a red line”. Mr Netanyahu said there were agreements between Israel and Washington regarding the goals of the war, but differences regarding the way in which they must be achieved. Avoiding action in Rafah would be equivalent to a decision not to act in Berlin at the end of the second World War, he said. “It is not possible to eliminate only two-thirds of Hamas. The whole thing must be eliminated, otherwise it will come back and take over the entire strip.”

United Nations secretary general António Guterres warned that an Israeli military assault on Rafah “could plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell”. He urged Israel and Hamas to honour the spirit of Ramadan by “silencing the guns” in the Gaza Strip. He also called for the release of hostages and the removal of all obstacles to aid deliveries, after the UN warned that a quarter of the population were on the brink of famine.

Responding to a request from Germany, Israel has transferred 60 children, aged from three to 15, from a German-funded Gaza orphanage that ceased operations due to the war, to the occupied West Bank. The gesture was criticised by far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich who said: “He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem