IAF strikes Hamas rocket chief's home

14 reported killed in air-strikes Monday evening; IAF aircraft destroys truck carrying Grad rockets.

gaza air strike 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza air strike 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An IAF aircraft on Monday night struck the home of Maher Zakut, the commander of Hamas's rocket-firing forces, the army said. In was unclear whether Zakut was in the house at the time. Palestinian sources said that seven people were killed in the strike. According to reports, several more targets were struck in the Strip. Several secondary explosions were caused by the strike because of a large weapons warehouse alongside the senior operative's house. Five people were reportedly killed when an IAF aircraft targeted a car. Palestinian sources reported that 14 people were killed in air-strikes Monday evening. The air force also struck a truck carrying Grad-type missiles, setting off a series of secondary explosions, the IDF said. The army believes that Hamas was transferring the missiles to a hideout out of fear that their location had been compromised. The trasfer was also supposedly intended to bring them closer to areas from which they could be launched at Israel. Earlier, Palestinian sources reported that Ziad Abu-Tir, 36, a senior activist in Islamic Jihad, was killed along with four others, in an air strike in the central Gaza Strip, near Khan Yunis. Meanwhile, Hamas said that two members of its armed wing were killed as the IAF struck facilities belonging to the group in the southern Gaza town, and Al Jazeera reported that the Navy also participated in the operation, shelling Hamas targets. Other targets hit Monday afternoon included ammunition stocks, Hamas military infrastructure and tunnels in Gaza City and northern Gaza. Throughout the day, forces continued to amass along the Gaza border. IDF artillery batteries were deployed outside Gaza for the first time in a year, alongside tanks and infantry troops. Defense officials would not specify when and if the ground operation would be launched but stressed that Israel would not hesitate to expand and deepen its operations as necessary. In the early hours of Monday morning, in what is being described as a strategic blow to the Hamas military wing, the IAF bombed two research-and-development laboratories located on the Islamic University campus in Gaza City. Witnesses said they saw fire and smoke billowing at the university, counting six separate air strikes there just after midnight. Unconfirmed reports claimed that the IAF had re bombed the facility again during the day to ensure that it was destroyed. Two laboratories in the university, which served as research and development centers for Hamas's military wing, were targeted. The development of explosives, IDF sources said, was done under the auspices of university lecturers. Officials said that the explosives developed and manufactured in the labs were used to make sophisticated explosive devices and mortars used against Israel. Many Hamas officials graduated from the university. University buildings, they said, were also used for meetings of senior Hamas officials and that rockets and explosives were stored in the buildings. IDF sources said that the strike was approved together with the long list of targets that the cabinet had approved last week. "This is a strategic blow to Hamas," one official explained. "It is a blow to their development capability and will make it more difficult for them to manufacture explosives and new Kassam rockets." For the first time overnight Sunday, the IDF Navy began to participate in the operations and bombed targets across the Gaza Strip. Among them were smuggling tunnels, weapons manufacturing plants and weapon warehouses, as well as boats used by Palestinian terrorists. Other targets included a guest palace used by the Hamas government, and the house next to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's home in a refugee camp next to Gaza City. He was not home, as Hamas leaders have gone into hiding. Seven Palestinians were killed in the late night strikes, according to Israel Radio. Palestinian sources reported Monday night that at least 350 Palestinians had been killed and more than 1,600 had been wounded since the beginning of the IDF operation in Gaza. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the fatalities included at least 20 children, nine women and 60 other unarmed civilians. AP and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report