PM, defense minister reportedly not consulted in advance

Israel kills 3 sons of Hamas chief Haniyeh in Gaza strike, says they were terrorists

IDF says relatives were ‘en route to carry out terror activity’; 4 grandchildren also killed; Qatar-based terror chief tells Al Jazeera he thanks God ‘for honor of their martyrdom’

Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who were allegedly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on April 10, 2024. (Photo distributed on Palestinian Telegram channels) and Palestinians bury the three sons in al-Shati camp, West of Gaza City, April 11, 2024. (STRINGER/AFPTV/AFP)

Israel on Wednesday killed three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in a strike in the northern Gaza Strip, saying they were operatives in the terror group. Four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren, three girls and a boy, were also killed in the attack, Hamas said.

The three sons — Hazem, Amir and Mohammad — were killed after the car they were driving in was struck in Gaza City’s Shati camp, Hamas said.

The deaths were first reported by Al Jazeera and then confirmed by Haniyeh himself and Hamas.

The IDF and Shin Bet later confirmed killing the three men, saying they were operatives in the terror group. According to the IDF and Shin Bet, Amir Haniyeh was a squad commander in the Hamas military wing, while Hazem and Mohammad Haniyeh were lower-ranking operatives, also in the military wing.

The IDF said that the trio were “en route to carry out terror activity in the area of central Gaza” when they were struck.

Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas who is largely based in Qatar, confirmed their deaths in comments to Al Jazeera, telling the news outlet that he “thank[s] God for bestowing upon us the honor of their martyrdom.”

Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who were allegedly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on April 10, 2024. (Photo distributed on Palestinian Telegram channels)

In a phone interview broadcast on the TV network, the terror leader vowed that the group will not surrender, and that such actions will not make it change its goals and its demands in hostage release talks.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024. (AFP)

“Their pure blood is for the liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, and we will continue to march on our road, and will not hesitate and will not falter,” Haniyeh said. “With their blood, we bring about hope, a future and freedom for our people and our cause.”

“Our demands are clear and specific and we will not make concessions on them. The enemy will be delusional if it thinks that targeting my sons, at the climax of the negotiations and before the movement sends its response, will push Hamas to change its position,” he told the TV station, adding that “the blood of my sons is not dearer than the blood of our people.”

According to Hebrew media reports, the strike on Haniyeh’s three sons was approved by a colonel in the IDF’s Southern Command and was not discussed in the war cabinet ahead of time, despite the sensitive timing as Israel is still awaiting an official Hamas response to the latest hostage deal offer.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were not informed in advance of the strike. A source quoted by the Kan public broadcaster warned the strike could jeopardize the ongoing talks.

The broadcaster also said the IDF alleged one of Haniyeh’s sons was involved in holding hostages, but did not specify which.

A video circulating online purports to show the moment Haniyeh is told of his sons’ deaths while visiting a hospital in Qatar. He calmly praises God and then suggests the tour continue on to the next room. It is not clear whether the video was genuine or staged.

Haniyeh, a father of 13, told Al Jazeera that nearly 60 members of his family had been “martyred” in the war, and that he has paid the same price as the rest of the Palestinian people.

His eldest son confirmed in a Facebook post that his three brothers were killed. “Thanks to God who honored us by the martyrdom of my brothers, Hazem, Amir and Mohammad and their children,” wrote Abdel-Salam Haniyeh.

An Al Jazeera report claimed that the three men were struck by a missile launched from a drone as they were traveling in a car on their way to congratulate relatives and acquaintances on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which began Tuesday evening.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences in a phone call to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after the death of his three sons in Gaza, his office said. Erdogan told Haniyeh, “Israel will definitely be held accountable before the law for the crimes against humanity it committed,” the presidency said in a statement on social media.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi also sent condolences to Haniyeh, the official state-run news agency IRNA reported. Raisi “expressed deep sorrow” over his sons’ deaths, the report said. Hamas said that Haniyeh also received messages of condolence from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Appointed to head the terror group in 2017, Haniyeh has moved between Turkey and Qatar’s capital Doha, and has emerged as the most prominent negotiator in the latest ongoing round of talks for a truce and hostage release deal. Israel sent a delegation to talks in Cairo this week, while Hamas representatives have also been in the Egyptian capital for negotiations.

While some officials have expressed optimism that a deal could be reached after months of stalled talks, so far Hamas appears to be sticking to its demand that the war end before it agrees to release any of the hostages the terror group kidnapped from Israel on October 7 who are still being held in the Strip. Israel has outright rejected such a demand.

This handout picture provided on February 13, 2024, shows Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) meeting with Hamas’s political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh in Doha. (Iranian Foreign Ministry / AFP)

Thousands of Hamas terrorists poured across the border with Israel in a mass assault on October 7, killing close to 1,200 people and kidnapping 253 to Gaza. During a weeklong truce in late November, 105 of the hostages were released, four were freed earlier and three have been rescued alive by troops, while the bodies of 12 hostages have been recovered. The IDF believes that 129 of those kidnapped remain in the Strip, including at least 34 bodies.

During Israel’s ensuing war against Hamas in Gaza, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people have been killed in the fighting, an unverified figure that includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. The IDF says it killed 1,000 Hamas and other terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7. Since the IDF ground invasion began, 260 IDF soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

Last week, Haniyeh said that the terror group was not prepared to budge on any of the conditions it had previously laid out, declaring in a televised speech that “we are committed to our demands: the permanent ceasefire, comprehensive and complete withdrawal of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip, the return of all displaced people to their homes, allowing all aid needed for our people in Gaza, rebuilding the Strip, lifting the blockade and achieving an honorable prisoner exchange deal.”

Earlier this month, police in Israel arrested Haniyeh’s sister, an Israeli citizen living in Tel Sheva. Three of the Hamas leader’s sisters live in the southern town and were married to Arab Israelis. Two are now widowed and have fallen foul of Israeli authorities in the past by making illegal trips into Gaza in 2013 via Egypt. They were both given eight-month suspended sentences for the visits in 2015. Later that year, Israel denied Haniyeh’s request that his sisters be permitted to attend his son’s wedding in Gaza.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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