Hamas rained down rockets across Israel on Wednesday after the air force fired several missiles at a home in Gaza City, in what Hamas said was an attempt to assassinate its military leader Muhammad Deif.
Deif’s condition remains unknown. Hamas said the Israeli missile strikes on a three-story building in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood killed his wife and two-yearold son, but claimed the elusive chief of Izzadin Kassam escaped the bombing.
A Hamas official said Deif had not used the targeted house, from which the bodies of the family members that lived there were pulled out of the rubble.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that Deif was not home at the time of the strike. He added that Deif will retaliate against the strike.
“The occupation will pay for its crimes against Palestinian civilians and those living around the Gaza border will not return home until Muhammad Deif decides,” Zuhri said.
Chanting “Kassam, bomb Tel Aviv!” thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of his wife and son in Jabalya refugee camp. The woman’s mother told reporters she wished she had “another 100 daughters” to offer Deif in marriage.
There was no confirmation from Israel that it had tried to kill Deif, who has been targeted in air strikes at least four times since the mid-1990s. Israel holds him responsible for the deaths of dozens of its citizens in suicide bombings.
“I am convinced that if there was intelligence that Muhammad Deif was not inside the home, then we would not have bombed it,” MK Yaakov Peri, science, technology and space minister and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief, told Army Radio.
The IAF struck some 100 targets across Gaza since Palestinian rockets violated the truce on Tuesday, targeting rocket launchers, command and control centers, and terrorists who fired projectiles into Israel.
Earlier on Wednesday, Izzadin Kassam spokesman Abu Obeida delivered a television threat in which he told international airlines to cease flights into Ben-Gurion Airport from 6 a.m. on Thursday.
The masked Obedia said indirect talks with Israel were finished, and that Hamas had ordered the Palestinian delegation to leave Cairo and not return, in a speech carried on Hamas’s Al-Aksa television channel.
“There will be no return to talks after today and any move in this direction will never achieve any result,” he said. “The enemy lost a golden chance to reach a ceasefire with limited demands, for which it will pay after today.”
Since midnight on Wednesday there were more than 140 rockets fired into Israel, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said, adding that 22 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Of these, 105 impact sites were found, 100 of which were in open areas.
Color Red rocket-warning sirens went off across southern and central communities throughout the day, sending residents fleeing for shelter. Ashdod, Beersheba, Ashkelon, Sderot and Petah Tikva were among the targeted areas. Gaza border areas came under heavy projectile fire. One rocket hit a house in the Lachish region, causing serious damage.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said that since the end of the cease-fire on Tuesday afternoon, there have been 175 rockets fired into Israel and over 100 targets struck by the air force in Gaza.
Overnight Tuesday, rockets were fired across southern and central Israel and the Jerusalem area. Across the central region there were reports of falling fragments, including large rocket cylinders that landed on motorways.
On Wednesday afternoon, an IAF aircraft bombed two terrorists who fired on southern Israel, and destroyed a rocket launcher in northern Gaza. An hour earlier, the IDF struck two terrorists who fired rockets at Sderot. Before that, it targeted a group of several terrorists who fired on Israel, an army spokesman said.
Reuters contributed to this report.