Monday, April 15, 2024

U.S. Confirms Killing of Hamas Military Chief Marwan Issa, Mastermind of October 7 Attacks

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GAZA CITY – The wail of sirens pierced the night over Gaza once more as Israeli jets streaked overhead, raining more bombs down upon the densely packed cities below. In Rafah near the Egyptian border, the thunderous explosions shook buildings and sent fireballs high into the inky darkness.

When dawn broke, a horrific scene of death and destruction emerged. At least 14 civilians, including several children, lay dead amid the rubble of pulverized homes, according to Palestinian officials and news reports. Rescuers pulled bloodied survivors from the smoking ruins as anguished screams cut through the dust-choked air.

It was the latest massacre of innocents in Israel’s brutal military onslaught against the Gaza Strip. Now entering its 12th day, the relentless bombardment has brought profound human suffering to the besieged Palestinian territory. Over 800 civilians, a third of them children, have perished so far in the Israeli juggernaut.

“What is happening in Gaza can only be described as a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions,” said Rasha Abdu, a spokeswoman for the U.N. relief agency UNRWA in Gaza. “We are witnessing the wholesale destruction of civilian areas by indiscriminate Israeli bombing on an unimaginable scale.”

Nowhere to Hide as Residential Areas Ravaged

The pre-dawn strikes on Rafah also slammed the sprawling al-Shifa medical complex, Gaza’s largest hospital and one of the few still partially operational. Al Jazeera correspondent Hani Mahmoud reported bearing witness to the utter annihilation of multiple residential buildings in the vicinity.

“Residential buildings are being relentlessly bombed. We’ve heard of two buildings at the northern gate of al-Shifa hospital being completely destroyed,” he said. “To the south, one more residential tower has been leveled along with a mosque to its west.”

Videos shared online revealed the sheer terror of the night’s onslaught. In one, the sky over Rafah strobed furiously with bomb blasts as huge fireballs belched across the city. Another showed rubble-strewn streets choked with thick smoke and dust as screams and car alarms wailed.

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Across Gaza’s teeming cities and refugee camps, there is now literally no place to seek shelter from Israel’s bombardment. Even areas thought safe like al-Shifa have become death traps, as Israel’s airstrikes reduce whole neighborhoods to apocalyptic landscapes of shattered concrete and death.

“No Home, No Refuge, No Escape”

“There is utterly no refuge in Gaza – no home is safe, no school, no hospital,” said Dr. Basem Naim, the head of international outreach at Gaza’s Health Ministry. “As I speak, more bombs are raining down. Utter terror is all that remains. Is there no limit to Israel’s conscience?”

The depravity of Gaza’s nightmarish existence grows more unfathomable by the hour. Families cower trapped in their homes, flinching at every distant blast, wondering if they’ll be the next victims picked at random. Some 58,000 have fled in panicked desperation but found only squalid U.N shelters offering no real safety.

Outrage and condemnation of Israel’s military tactics has grown deafening worldwide. The United Nations, global humanitarian groups, and human rights monitors have accused Israeli forces of violating the laws of armed conflict. Deliberately or not, they say, entire civilian population centers have become targets of unrestrained destruction and violence.

“We have witnessed an alarming pattern of Israeli strikes against residential buildings and infrastructure, resulting in intolerably high civilian casualties and widespread forced displacement of Gazan families,” stated Amnesty International, the London-based rights group.

International observers provided chilling accounts of the indiscriminate bombing of homes across Gaza, backed by photos and video evidence. Amnesty’s statement concluded, “Such attacks against civilian populations amount to war crimes of the highest magnitude.”

Israel Disputes Claim of Indiscriminate Bombing

For its part, Israel has strongly rebuffed accusations of war crimes, insisting its forces solely target Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups while making every effort to avoid civilian casualties.

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“Israel is fighting against a radical Islamist terrorist organization that has turned the Gaza Strip into a forward base for attacks against Israel, while indiscriminately firing rockets and exploiting Palestinians in Gaza as human shields,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Hecht asserted that IDF strikes are “surgical and targeted at specific terrorist elements.” He blamed Hamas for “willfully embedding their terrorist infrastructure among the civilian population.”

Yet the horrific civilian toll – one Palestinian child killed every hour on average, according to the Gaza Health Ministry – makes it increasingly difficult for Israeli officials to credibly dispute allegations of indiscriminate bombing practices.

As the conflict drags on, pressure is likely to intensify on Israel over its tactics. Already, the International Criminal Court has opened a formal investigation into the situation in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s “disproportionate” use of force in Gaza.

Hamas Military Chief Killed in Israeli Strike

Compounding tensions and inflaming passions further, it emerged that Israeli forces successfully assassinated a top Hamas military commander in an airstrike last week.

On Tuesday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed that Marwan Issa, the deputy leader of Hamas’s elite Qassam Brigades, died in an Israeli bombing on March 15th. Sullivan stated Issa was “one of the masterminds of the October 7th attacks” that triggered the Israeli invasion.

Word of Issa’s demise sparked frenzied celebration in Israel but vows of retaliation from the Palestinian side. The shadowy Hamas commander was directly involved in planning and overseeing the deadly missile barrage that left over 1,100 Israelis dead last October.

Details of how Israeli forces killed Issa remain murky. According to Israeli media, the leader was hiding in a tunnel complex under the Nuseirat refugee camp when the underground site was struck. In the aftermath, Hamas communications mysteriously went dark for over 72 hours – a pattern that analysts say usually indicates an assassination was successful and the group’s command structure was reeling.

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Some Israeli experts believe the military may have received help from a highly-placed human source inside Hamas, enabling the precision strike on Issa. “Israel would have needed to know where and when he was hiding,” noted Avi Melamed, a former intelligence official.

Hostages and Political Intrigue in Israel

For both Israelis and Palestinians, the calculus going forward is now complicated by Issa’s death. Hamas could feel pressure to intensify rocket attacks to avenge their slain commander. Israel, meanwhile, may calculate it has regained some strategic advantage and leverage.

These dynamics could stymy ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire and negotiate a deal to release Israeli and Palestinian hostages currently held by each side.

According to Israeli media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reluctant to seriously entertain a hostage swap, fearing the reprieve from fighting could jeopardize his own political survival. The embattled leader has been fending off criminal charges in an ongoing corruption trial.

“Netanyahu’s main priority is keeping his hold on power, even as his trial moves forward,” wrote Haaretz analyst Amos Harel. “A ceasefire could invite pressure to dissolve the Knesset for new elections.”

This means Netanyahu may stall on any hostage negotiations as long as possible to forestall a lasting ceasefire that could remove his continuance as a lame-duck prime minister.

For average Gazans and Israelis, however, the political gamesmanship and hostage standoff matters little. Their reality is one of trauma, grief, and the constant terror of death by airstrike.

Nowhere is this existential dread more acute than in Gaza, where the death toll rises inexorably with each hellish night of bombardment – and where hope for any future grows dimmer with each fresh atrocity.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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