The Israeli military said it has destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, the third such attack in as many days, after nearly a week of heavy air strikes on the Palestinian territory.
Israel appears to have stepped up its air strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas, as efforts to broker a ceasefire accelerate with the arrival of a US diplomat in the region and talks at the UN Security Council.
The military said it struck the homes of Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory, and his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’s political branch.
Brigadier general Hidai Zilberman confirmed the strike on Sinwar’s house in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis to army radio. He said the home of his brother, who is in charge of Hamas “logistics and personnel”, was also destroyed.
Hamas’s upper echelon has gone into hiding in Gaza, and it is unlikely any were at home at the time of the strikes. Its top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, divides his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which provide political support to the group.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters have been killed since the fighting broke out last Monday, while Israel says the real number is far higher.
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel since Monday, when tensions over a holy site in Jerusalem and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from a nearby neighbourhood boiled over.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes across the impoverished and blockaded territory, which is home to more than two million Palestinians, and brought down a number of high-rise buildings – including one that housed The Associated Press office in Gaza.
The latest round of fighting – the worst since the 2014 Gaza war – has killed at least 145 Palestinians in Gaza, including 41 children and 23 women. Eight Israelis have been killed, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.
Early on Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck several buildings and roads in central Gaza City.
Photos circulated by residents and journalists showed the air strikes punched a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa hospital, the largest medical centre in the strip.
The Health Ministry said the latest air strikes left at least two dead and 25 wounded, including children and women. There has been no immediate comment from the Israeli military.