According to Reuters, an Israeli air strike killed three senior Hamas commanders in the Gaza Strip on Thursday (August 21), a clear sign of its intention to hit the group's armed leadership days after a cease-fire failed.
Hamas, which dominates Gaza, named the leaders as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum, the three highest-ranking casualties it has announced since Israel started its offensive six weeks ago.
All three, killed in the bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah, had led operations against Israel over the past 20 years, the Islamist movement said.
COMMENT: The Israeli military and Shin Bet, the internal security service, confirmed it had targeted two of the men.
Following the collapse on Tuesday of a ten-day ceasefire, the Israeli military appears to have ramped up its efforts to hit the leadership of Hamas' armed wing.
Late on Tuesday, the Israeli air force bombed a house in northern Gaza, an attempt, Hamas said, to assassinate Mohammed Deif, its top military commander. Deif's wife, daughter and seven-month-old son were killed, but Deif escaped, Hamas said.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched at the funeral of the three Hamas commanders on Thursday, firing weapons into the air in anger and calling for revenge.
Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israel's military intelligence and head of Tel Aviv University's INSS think-tank, said Israel, which was engaged in indirect ceasefire talks with Hamas in Cairo until Tuesday, had now changed its game plan.
"The PM has adopted a strategy which says 'You shoot at us, we'll hit you seven times harder, you want attrition? We have intelligence and an Air Force that will crush you with greater force," he told Israel Radio.
Shin Bet said Abu Shammala was head of Hamas's southern command and described al-Attar as a brigade commander. It said both had been leading fighting against Israel in the south of Gaza, where some of the most intense combat has occurred.
Palestinian health officials said 26 Palestinians, including three children, the Hamas commanders and at least two other militants, were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Thursday.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said aircraft bombed more than 30 sites across Gaza and that militants fired more than 45 rockets into Israel. One mortar landed near a kindergarten in an Israeli kibbutz, badly wounding a parent of one of the children, the Israeli ambulance service said.
Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8 with the declared aim of curbing Palestinian rocket fire into its territory. Gaza health officials say 2,061 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed.
Israeli attacks have devastated many areas in the densely-populated enclave, home to 1.8 million people, with 425,000 of people displaced, according to the United Nations.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in the conflict, as well as three civilians in Israel.
Netanyahu said fighting could go on for some time and provisionally approved the call-up of 10,000 army reservists.
Hamas has said it will not relent until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted. Both countries view Hamas as a security threat and are reluctant to make sweeping concessions without guarantees weapons will not enter Gaza.