Rockets target southern, central Israel; homes hit in Sderot

Israel eliminates top Hamas commander; 14 said killed as Haniyeh’s family home bombed

Ayman Nofal led Central Gaza Brigade, was one of terror group's 'most dominant senior officials'; Gallant says Hamas members have two options: surrender or die

Ayman Nofal, commander of Hamas's Central Gaza Brigade, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike on October 17, 2023 (Social media)

An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon killed the head of Hamas’s Central Gaza Brigade, a senior commander in the terror organization, the military and Hamas said, as Israel’s defense minister warned members of the terror group needed to choose between surrender and death, and rockets from the Strip continued to target Israeli communities.

At the same time, rockets from the Strip continued to target southern and central Israel, causing some damage and injuries.

Also Tuesday, reports from Gaza indicated that 14 people had been killed in a strike on a home belonging to the family of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, including his brother and nephew. Haniyeh himself lives in Qatar.

The slain Hamas commander, Ayman Nofal, was also a member of the organization’s General Military Council. He was killed in a strike in the Bureij refugee camp. The IDF said the airstrike was carried out following intelligence efforts by the Shin Bet security agency and Military Intelligence Directorate.

According to the IDF, Nofal, as part of his role, carried out “numerous attacks against Israel and security forces.”

The IDF said Nofal was also previously involved in the production and development of weapons and had been involved in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilat Shalit in 2006.

The military added that Nofal was “one of the most dominant senior officials in the organization, and was close to Muhammad Deif,” Hamas’s military leader.

It issued a video showing the bombardment.

Earlier, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said members of Hamas had two options in the ongoing war: to surrender or to die.

“Our warplanes will reach everywhere… every missile has an address. We will reach each and every one of the members of Hamas,” Gallant told pilots and technicians of the Israel Air Force’s F-35 fleet at the Nevatim airbase.

“Hamas members have two options: Either die in their positions or surrender unconditionally. There is no third option. We will wipe out the Hamas organization and dismantle all of its capabilities,” Gallant said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to pilots at the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel, October 17, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The Israel Defense Forces has in recent days assassinated several Hamas commanders, including a number of individuals who led attacks inside Israel on October 7, when thousands of terrorists burst through the border and ravaged Israeli southern communities, killing over 1,300 people, most of them civilians, and abducting another 200 at least.

Since then the military has been bombarding Gaza with thousands of airstrikes as it targets Hamas and other terror groups, and has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to the border area ahead of an expected major ground offensive. Israel’s leaders have said they plan to eradicate the terror group that has ruled the enclave since 2007.

The military has also instructed all civilians in northern Gaza to move southward ahead of intensifying operations, and says hundreds of thousands have already done so despite Hamas putting up roadblocks and urging them to stay put.

Thousands have gathered at Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only one not controlled by Israel, in an effort to flee.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has said over 2,700 Gazans have been killed in the attacks, without noting how many were combatants and how many civilians.

The military says it’s striving to cause minimum harm to uninvolved citizens and charges that Hamas uses Gazan civilians as human shields.

The Reuters news agency reported Tuesday that Israel had so far struck some 5,000 Hamas targets since the start of the war on October 7. It cited an unnamed senior Israeli official who also noted that many strikes had been called off to avoid harm to civilians.

Despite the massive Israeli strikes, Gaza terror groups have managed to continue to target Israeli communities with rockets, with projectiles being launched at the country’s south and center on a daily basis. While many are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, some are able to punch through.

Barrages Tuesday targeted major swaths of central Israel, including Tel Aviv and other surrounding cities.

On Tuesday afternoon, four rockets directly hit the city of Sderot near Gaza. The impacts caused significant damage to homes in Sderot, but no injuries were reported.

Most residents of Sderot have evacuated in the days since Hamas launched its murderous rampage on October 7, as have residents of Gaza periphery towns devastated by the assault.

Other rockets Tuesday targeted Ashkelon, Beersheba, Ashdod and smaller southern communities.

In Holon, a man was seriously hurt after falling into a ditch while exiting his vehicle in order to take shelter amid rocket sirens. He was taken to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for treatment.

On Monday, Hamas issued the first video of one of the kidnapped Israelis from Gaza. The video of Mia Schem was the first sign of life the world has received from any of the hostages taken from southern Israel during Hamas’s onslaught. It has been described as a propaganda video and an attempt at “psychological terror” by the military.

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