Hamas’ economy minister and another senior political bureau member were killed by Israeli forces on Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement. Their deaths were reported shortly after the IDF launched more than 100 airstrikes on Gaza.
Jawad Abu Shamala served as economy minister in Hamas’ political wing, while Zakaria Abu Ma’amr was described by the IDF as a close associate of the group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
Abu Shamala was responsible for “financing and directing terrorism,” while Abu Ma’amr “was involved in the organization’s decision-making and planning many actions against the security of the State of Israel,” the IDF said in a statement on Tuesday.
Hamas confirmed the deaths of both men shortly afterwards on its official website, saying that they had been “martyred as a result of the Zionist occupation’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.”
Israeli warplanes have been bombarding densely-populated Gaza since Saturday, with 250 targets struck in the al-Furkan neighborhood of Gaza City between Monday and Tuesday.
The IDF described this neighborhood as a “nest of terror,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that the airstrikes will “continue with full strength.”
Civilian casualties are reportedly high, with the Palestinian Health Ministry stating on Tuesday that 770 people have been killed and 4,000 others wounded in the strikes. There are 140 children among the dead, the ministry added.
The bombing campaign was launched in response to a full-scale assault on Israel by Hamas. Barrages of rockets were fired into the country from Gaza beginning on Saturday morning, with some hitting targets as far away as Tel Aviv. As air raid sirens blared across southern Israel, Hamas fighters poured across the border and stormed Jewish settlements near Gaza.
As of Tuesday, at least 800 Israelis have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Hamas is believed to be holding at least 150 Israelis as hostages and has threatened to execute these captives on live television if Israel continues launching no-warning airstrikes on Gaza.
Israeli officials have shown no signs of backing down. “Human animals must be treated as such,” Israeli Major General Ghassan Alian said on Tuesday, referring to residents of the Palestinian enclave. “There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell,” he warned in a video message.