Airstrike kills wife, child of Hamas figure

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Hamas' shadowy military chief escaped an apparent Israeli assassination attempt that killed his wife and infant son, the militant group said Wednesday, as Israel's prime minister warned that the bombardment of Gaza will continue until rocket fire out of the Palestinian territory stops.

The airstrike on a home where Mohammed Deif's family members were staying -- and the tough talk from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- came after the collapse Tuesday of cease-fire talks in Cairo.

In a nationally televised address, Mr. Netanyahu showed little willingness to return to the negotiating table after six weeks of war with Hamas.

"We are determined to continue the campaign with all means and as is needed," he said, his defense minister by his side. "We will not stop until we guarantee full security and quiet for the residents of the south and all citizens of Israel."

More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, most of them civilians, according to U.N. and Palestinian medical officials. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers.

A six-day temporary truce collapsed into heavy fighting after Egyptian-mediated talks broke down without an agreement on an extended cease-fire. Hamas has demanded an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Israel has demanded that Hamas disarm.

Palestinian militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel, while Israel carried out numerous airstrikes across Gaza. One airstrike on a Gaza City house killed Mr. Deif's 7-month-old son and one of his wives.

After remaining quiet for most of the day Wednesday, Hamas officials announced that Mr. Deif was not in the targeted home at the time and was still alive. Mr. Deif has survived multiple assassination attempts, lives in hiding and is believed to be paralyzed from previous attempts on his life. Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas' military wing, said Israel was "unable to get to our commander Deif," adding that he will "lead the army that will enter to liberate the holy al-Aqsa mosque" in Jerusalem.

Asked whether Mr. Deif had been targeted, Mr. Netanyahu said: "The leaders of terror organizations are legitimate targets. No one is immune."

The house belonged to a family of known Hamas supporters. In footage taken after the strike, rescue workers were seen searching for survivors in the rubble where the building once stood.

Thousands of people attended the funeral for Mr. Deif's family, with a relative carrying the body of his son, shrouded in a white burial cloth. Mourners chanted "revenge" during the procession.

In a televised statement, Mr. Obeida also warned international airlines against flying into Israel starting today. Earlier in the conflict, airlines suspended flights into Israel after a rocket landed in a town near Israel's main international airport.

Since the truce collapsed, at least 22 Palestinians have been killed and more than 120 wounded, a Gaza Health Ministry official, Ashraf al-Kidra, said.

The Israeli military said it carried out nearly 100 airstrikes on Gaza targets, and that Palestinians had fired more than 140 rockets at Israel since the truce fell apart. About 2,000 reserve soldiers who had been sent home two weeks ago were called up for duty again Wednesday, the military said.

In the talks, Hamas sought an end to a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed when it seized power in Gaza in 2007, while Israel wanted guarantees that the Islamic militant group would disarm.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" Wednesday over the cease-fire's end. In a statement, it said it "continues bilateral contacts" with both sides aimed at restoring calm and securing a lasting truce that "serves the interest of the Palestinian people, especially in relation to the opening of the crossings and reconstruction."



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