Three sons of Hamas leader killed in Israeli drone strike in Gaza refugee camp

Ceasefire proposals fail to address demand for permanent truce in enclave, says Hamas, as Israel’s military prepares to enter Rafah

Three children of Ismail Haniyeh, the exiled head of the Hamas political bureau, were killed on Wednesday in an Israeli drone strike on a car in the Shati Beach refugee camp, west of Gaza city. Several of his grandchildren were also reportedly killed in the strike.

Israel claimed all three sons were Hamas operatives.

Mr Haniyeh, who has 13 children, said his sons died a martyrs’ death. “I am grateful to God for the honour he has given me in the deaths of three of my children. All Gazans paid a price and so did I,” he said, stressing that the killings would not change Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire in the six-month-old Gaza war.

The strike took place despite the fact that most Israeli troops have left the Gaza Strip, except for a single infantry battalion guarding the Wadi Gaza corridor, south of Gaza city, which divides the coastal strip in two.


The Israeli army says the troop redeployment is in order to prepare for a continuation of military operations, including an attack on Rafah, where it says four Hamas battalions remain intact, and where more than a million residents have sought refuge.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, said the Israel Defense Forces would enter Rafah and return to operations in Khan Younis, and that Israel’s operational freedom in the Gaza Strip would be maintained, despite the military redeployment.

“Victory will come step by step, we are on our way to it, and we won’t stop,” said Mr Gantz, adding that “the most urgent goal, morally and nationally, is to return the hostages [seized in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7th].”

Israel was on Wednesday still awaiting a formal response from Hamas to the ceasefire and hostage release plan drawn up at weekend talks in Cairo, but Hamas officials have indicated that the proposals fail to address the militant group’s demand for a permanent ceasefire.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 33,400 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas-led attack on October 7th. It says 133 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are alive.

Gaza residents on Wednesday marked the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in sombre mood.

Many visited graves of relatives and friends who were killed during the ongoing war. Others spoke of a lack of food in order to prepare the traditional festive meal that marks the end of the month of fasting.

Arab councils across Israel cancelled festive celebrations marking the holiday, as annual marches and markets were cancelled.

With attention focused on events in Gaza, Israel is still bracing for an Iranian response to last week’s strike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, attributed to Israel, that killed several Iranian Revolutionary Guards members.

Defence minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel would attack in the territory of any country that attacked it.

“We will know to respond very quickly in a necessary offensive in the territory of whoever attacks Israel, no matter where – anywhere in the Middle East,” he said.

His comments came after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed his threat to avenge the Damascus attack. “The evil regime made a mistake and must be punished, and it shall be,” he wrote in Hebrew on the social media platform X.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

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