Israel launched a series of airstrikes Wednesday targeting the homes of four of Hamas’ senior leaders after the organization rejected an Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement.
Israeli aircraft targeted 30 homes, including those of Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar, the Gaza Interior Ministry’s website said, according to Associated Press. Israel warned at least 100,000 Gaza residents to flee the area ahead of the airstrikes.
The messages, which were disseminated by text message, automated phone calls and leaflets, said that rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza and that Israel planned to bomb the area. “Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families,” the messages said.
Zahar played a major role in Hamas’ seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Shanti, Hamas and Ashkar are members of the Palestinian parliament. Several members of Hamas' leadership went into hiding ahead of the Israeli offensive, AP reported.
The Israeli government accepted Egypt’s proposal for an immediate truce and engaged negotiations for a permanent stop to hostilities, including the possibility of loosening the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza’s border. However, Hamas rejected the deal, reportedly over suspicions that the Egyptian regime would fail to be impartial.
When peace talks collapsed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas would face dire consequences for rejecting Egypt’s plan.
As hostilities intensify in Gaza, Palestinian casualties continue to mount; more than 200 people have died, while more than 1,500 are wounded, Palestinian health officials said. Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire killed an Israeli civilian on Tuesday, an incident that marked Israel’s first death since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8.