According to Hamas’ military branch, the commander of its northern brigade and four other top officers were murdered during Israel’s onslaught against the Islamist outfit.
The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that Ahmed al-Ghandour was a member of its military council and named three others, including Ayman Siyyam, chief of its rocket division, while its West Bank branch verified the death of another leader.
“We pledge to Allah we will continue their path and that their blood will be a light for the mujahedeen and a fire for the occupiers,” the statement said, without saying when they were killed.
The Israeli army confirmed it had killed “five senior commanders”.
It named Ghandour as a “key figure in the planning and execution of the October 7 massacre,” when Hamas terrorists broke into Israel, killing 1,200 people, largely civilians, and capturing 240 more, according to Israeli estimates.
Israel has now launched a massive military campaign, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers claim has killed roughly 15,000 Palestinians, largely civilians.
According to the army, Ghandour was the commander of one of Hamas’s five regional battalions in the Gaza Strip.
He was “responsible for directing all Hamas’s terror activities” in northern Gaza, and had initiated “shootings, bombings and rocket launches” as well as attacks in the West Bank.
It identified Siyyam as a senior figure who headed Hamas’s rockets division for “approximately 15 years”.
Wael Rajab, described as Ghandour’s deputy and the previous police chief in northern Gaza, was also slain, as was Raafat Salman, a key operative in Qassam’s Gaza City Brigade who was involved in the October 7 motorised glider incursion.
Farsan Khalifa, the fifth killed commander, was a senior operator with Hamas’s West Bank headquarters who “aided and was close to” the Gaza leadership, according to the statement.
The Israeli army stated that Ghandour, Siyyam, and Khalifa were killed in the same hit, but did not specify where or when it occurred.
‘More than 50’
A senior Israeli military officer stated last week that troops had killed “more than 50” Hamas commanders, causing “significant” damage to the military wing’s capacity, which the official estimated to be roughly 24,000 combatants.
Ghandour, also known as Abu Anas, was designated a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2017.
According to the State Department, he was a member of Hamas’ political bureau and a previous member of its Shura council, which includes Hamas leaders from Gaza, the West Bank, and abroad.
He was part in “many terrorist operations,” according to the statement, including a 2006 attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which killed two Israeli soldiers and injured four others and resulted in the arrest of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by Hamas for five years.
He was freed in 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
The senior Israeli military official said troops had caused significant damage to Hamas’s fighting force — made up of 24 battalions of 1,000 militants each — notably in the north.
“In some (battalions), we eliminated hundreds of Hamas terrorists and most of the battalion commanders,” he said.
“This harm is significant, it dismantles the ability of Hamas to fight right now, but also the ability to rehabilitate its military power after the war.”
He did not specify how many militants were killed, but said it was in the thousands: “not 10,000, not 1,000, something in the middle.”
Hamas’ announcement Sunday was the third day of a four-day cease-fire in which Hamas released 26 Israeli hostages, all of whom were women and children, in two groups, as well as 15 foreign people, predominantly Thais.
In exchange for the Israeli hostages, Israel released 78 Palestinian inmates, all of them were women or teenagers.