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Hamas Senior Leaders Killed In Predawn Israeli Airstrike


Now another place the Obama administration is monitoring closely is Gaza, where a cease-fire has broken down again. The violence we've seen between Israel and Hamas followed the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers earlier this summer. Israel, all along, has blamed Hamas for carrying that out, and a senior Hamas official speaking in Turkey has now acknowledged for the first time that the militant group's armed wing was responsible. NPR's Philip Reeves joins us now from Gaza. Phil, good morning.


GREENE: So what, exactly, did we hear from Hamas and how is it different than what we have been hearing to this point?

REEVES: Well, these concerns - remarks made at a conference in Istanbul in Turkey yesterday which were recorded and posted on the Internet - a Hamas official who's based in Turkey reportedly said that he - what he said appeared to confirm Israeli allegations that Hamas's military wing was behind the abduction of these - and murder of these teenagers. He talked about a heroic operation by the Qassam brigades. That's the military wing of Hamas. He talked about imprisoning the three settlers. Now, up to now, Hamas officials have refused to confirm or deny any involvement in this. We contacted a Hamas spokesman here in Gaza, and he wouldn't comment.

GREENE: OK - well, all of this comes as we see yet another cease-fire breaking down. What is happening in the fighting that we've seen in the last day or so?

REEVES: Well, there've been very significant developments, I think. Three senior Hamas militant commanders have, overnight, been killed in an Israeli airstrike. It happened in Rafah in southern Gaza - close to the border with Egypt. One is a guy called Raed Attar. Israel says he was a veteran responsible for the lots of attacks over more than 20 years - rockets, bombings, constructing tunnels. And they also say that he was directly involved in the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who - you'll recall - was held in Gaza for five years before he was released in a prisoner exchange. The other guy - one of the other guys was a man that Israel describes as the most senior militant in southern Gaza. And Hamas says, actually, a third commander was killed in these airstrikes overnight. At the funeral today, Palestinians wouldn't talk about what these guys actually did. But it is clear that they were major players, and people were talking about them as heroes.

GREENE: Do know how Israel's figuring out exactly where these Hamas leaders are?

REEVES: No, the speculation that they have fresh intelligence - and this has allowed them to make these strikes. And that speculation has a lot to do with the fact that this is just over a day after a missile strike that killed the wife and infant son and daughter of Mohammed Deif. He's the military chief of the al-Qassam brigades - a real figure head. He's survived four assassination attempts before. Hamas says that he also survived this one were quite triumphant about that. But this concerted attack on Hamas field commanders, which emerged today, will be something that will, doubtless, be of great concern to their strategists and tacticians. People down at the funeral were saying that they expect the militant wing of Hamas to regroup because they've had leaders killed in the past - senior leaders killed in the past - although, none recently - none in this war.

GREENE: Phil, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

GREENE: That was NPR's Philip Reeves in Gaza, speaking to us about a Hamas leader acknowledging that the organization was responsible for the kidnapping and death of three Israeli teenagers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.