Hamas says Israel air strike killed three top Gaza commanders

A smoke trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel on Aug 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A smoke trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel on Aug 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GAZA (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike killed three senior Hamas military commanders in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the Islamist group said, the clearest sign yet Israel is focusing its assault on those leading attacks from the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on what would constitute the killing of the most senior Hamas men since it launched its offensive on Gaza six weeks ago, with the declared aim of curbing rocket fire into its territory.

Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, named the men as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum, and said they were killed in a bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah.

A military spokesman said aircraft carried out 20 assaults in Gaza on Thursday, but gave no further details. Late on Tuesday Israel targetted Hamas's top military commander Mohammed Deif, but failed to kill him. Deif's wife and seven-month-old son were killed in the air strike, Hamas said.

Egyptian-mediated talks to end weeks of deadly fighting between Israel, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza collapsed on Tuesday when violence broke out after ten days of relative calm.

Palestinian health officials said 2,050 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

Israel says it has killed hundreds of Palestinian militants in the conflict, which the United Nations says has displaced about 425,000 people. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.