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Palestinians vow to avenge killing of Hamas leaders

By Staff Reporter

Israel said it would call up 10,000 reservists as Palestinians vowed to avenge Israel's killing of three Hamas commanders in Gaza yesterday morning.

The pre-dawn strike levelled a four-storey house in a densely populated neighbourhood of the southern town of Rafah, killing six people, including Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.

Both Israel and Hamas identified the commanders killed in the 3am air strike. Israel said the trio had played a key role in expanding Hamas's military capabilities in recent years, including digging attack tunnels, training fighters and smuggling weapons to Gaza.

Thousands of Palestinians marched through Rafah in a funeral procession firing guns, waving flags of different militant groups and chanting religious slogans. Those killed were carried aloft through the crowd on stretchers, wrapped in green Hamas flags.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said Israel "will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or weaken the resistance", and that Israel "will pay the price".

"We will continue to seek out and target Hamas leaders anywhere, wherever they are," the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the "superior intelligence" of the Shin Bet security service and the military's "precise execution" of the attack.

An Israeli defence official said that tens of thousands of reserve soldiers would be called up for duty.

In pinpointing the whereabouts of the Hamas commanders, Israel probably relied to some extent on local informers. Israel has maintained a network of informers, in some cases using blackmail or the lure of exit permits to win cooperation.

The Rafah attack came a day after an apparent Israeli attempt to kill the top Hamas military leader, Mohammed Deif, in an air strike on a house in Gaza City. Mr Deif's wife and an infant son were killed in that strike, but the Hamas military wing said Mr Deif was not in the targeted home at the time. The body of his daughter, five-year-old Sara Deif, was recovered from the rubble yesterday.

The targeting of top Hamas military leaders came after indirect Israel-Hamas negotiations in Cairo on a sustainable truce broke down on Tuesday.

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