Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh ‘killed in Israel strike’ in Gaza

GAZA: The leader of Hamas said on Wednesday Israel had killed three of his sons in an air strike in Gaza as the war in the Palestinian territory raged despite ongoing truce negotiations in Cairo.

Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh said his three sons and “some of” his grandchildren had been killed in the strike in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The strike came as talks in Cairo aimed at a ceasefire and a hostage release deal dragged on without signs of a breakthrough. Israel did not immediately comment on the strike.

The United States has been ramping up pressure on Israel to agree to a truce, increase the amount of aid it allows into the Gaza Strip and abandon plans to invade the southern city of Rafah.

US President Joe Biden labelled Israel’s conduct of the war a “mistake” in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Wednesday marked the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with Gazans gathering to pray amid the devastation of the six-month war.

Tens of thousands also flocked to Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound where one worshipper, nurse Rawan Abd, said: “It’s the saddest Eid ever… you could see the sadness on people’s faces.”

Israeli forces meanwhile kept up combat operations and air strikes in Gaza, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed no let-up in the campaign to destroy Hamas and bring home the hostages.

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that militarily “Hamas is defeated”, but insisted that Israeli troops would nevertheless enter Rafah and return to Khan Yunis, from which they withdrew last week.

The army would have to fight for years to come “in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank and in the Lebanon front”, he added.

More than 1.5 million civilians are sheltering from the war in Rafah, the last Gazan city yet to face an Israeli ground invasion.

The United States has repeatedly warned against an invasion, although it said on Tuesday it believed an invasion of Rafah was not “imminent”.

Biden, voicing his growing frustration with the hawkish Netanyahu, issued some of his sternest criticism yet of the war.

“I think what he’s doing is a mistake,” Biden told the US Spanish-language TV network Univision in an interview that aired on Tuesday night having been recorded last week. “I don’t agree with his approach.”

He urged Netanyahu to “just call for a ceasefire, allow for the next six, eight weeks, total access to all food and medicine going into” Gaza.

Talks, mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, have been ongoing in Cairo since Sunday, with Hamas still considering the latest proposal.

Hamas member and spokesman in Doha Hossam Badran told reporters: “Hamas is studying the offer presented… It has not responded yet.”

A framework being circulated would halt fighting for six weeks and see the exchange of about 40 hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Beyond Washington, there has been a growing chorus of international criticism aimed at Israel’s conduct of the war and the paucity of aid entering the territory.

On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that what he called Israel’s “disproportionate response” in Gaza risked “destabilising the Middle East, and as a consequence, the entire world”.

Spain is among several Western nations, including Ireland and Australia, to have suggested they would recognise a Palestinian state in the near future as a starting point for wider peace talks rather than as an end goal.

The war broke out with Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 the Israeli army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,482 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

In central Gaza — the only area where Israeli troops are actively deployed — a strike on home in the Nuseirat camp killed 14 people, the health ministry said.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that “Israeli troops are continuing to operate in the central Gaza Strip and killed a number of terrorists over the past day”.

The military added that aircraft had “struck dozens of terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including military sites, launchers, tunnel shafts and infrastructure”.

Humanitarian groups have accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war in besieged Gaza, where UN experts say half the population is facing “catastrophic” food insecurity.

Washington’s recent tougher line with Israel, its main ally in the region, has brought some results, according to the US Agency for International Development.

Recent days had seen a “sea change” in aid deliveries, said USAID administrator Samantha Power, with Israel reporting 468 trucks entering from Egypt on Tuesday.

However, Power stressed that Israel needs to do more, saying that “we have famine-like conditions in Gaza, and supermarkets filled with food within a few kilometres away” in southern Israel.

According to the UN, before the war and its accompanying devastation an average of 500 aid trucks a day entered the territory.

Washington has also resumed funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after cutting it weeks ago following Israeli claims that some UNRWA staff took part in the October 7 attack.

Regional tensions have surged amid the Gaza war, while Israel has been widely blamed for an April 1 strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed seven Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Israel that “the evil regime made a mistake in this regard. It must be punished and will be punished”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz replied with a Persian-language post saying “if Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will respond and attack Iran”.

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