TEL AVIV, Israel - Assassinations by Israeli military and intelligence services require the prime minister to approve them.
So it was Benjamin Netanyahu authorised the death of three Hamas commanders in an air strike at 2:30am Thursday. The mission was successful and all 3 militants are dead.
Afterwards the champagne corks were popping in Tel Aviv as Israeli leaders heaped praised on the country's defense forces and the intelligence service Shin Bet. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the Hamas commanders killed "were responsible for severe terror attacks against Israel's citizens and IDF soldiers, including the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit," without disclosing any evidence to support the claims.
Mohammed Abu Shamalah, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhum. were named as the Hamas commanders killed in the air strikes on a 4-storey home at the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northwest Gaza, which according to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra killed 8 people. A four-year old girl injured in the strikes passed away in hospital later in the day. 5,000 bunker-busting GBU-28 bombs were believed to have been used in the strikes, which according to CNN left a crater the size of an entire residential block.
Ya'alon described the assassinations as a great operational and intelligence achievement for the army and the Shin Bet.
Buoyed by the killings, the defense minister pledged to "pursue and hit Hamas leaders at any time and place. He who attempts to harm Israeli civilians is taking his life in his hands," he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributed the killings to meticulous intelligence and precise Israeli military operational abilities..
The PM said that in his name, and in the name of the entire country, he wanted to extend his thanks to the country's intelligence services, and especially Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen.
"The Shin Bet and IDF work shoulder-to-shoulder during Operation Protective Edge, as they do throughout the year, and this is an important element in Israel's security," he said.
Palestinian health officials said twenty nine Palestinians, including 4 children, the Hamas commanders and at least two other militants, were killed in Israeli air strikes on Thursday.
The Israeli military said warplanes targeted over thirty sites across Gaza while militants fired more than 70 rockets and mortar bombs into Israel. Israel's ambulance service said one of these mortars fell near a kindergarten in an Israeli kibbutz, badly injuring a parent.
An air strike on the highly placed Hamas militant Mohammed Deif on Wednesday failed to kill the target, but managed to take the lives of Deif's wife and 7-month-old son.
The number of Palestinians so far killed as at Thursday is 2,061. Sixty seven Israelis have died, including 64 soldiers.
Meantime the U.S. State Department has expressed concern the Israeli military is targeting family members of the Palestinian teenager kidnapped and killed by Israeli settlers shortly after the discovery of the bodies of three murdered Israeli teenagers.
Three days after 16-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khder was abducted and burnt to death on July 2, the U.S. condemned the arrest of the boy's 15-year-old cousin, Tarek Abu Khder, a US citizen. He was beaten in detention, after which he was released and has since been flown back home to Florida.
On July 28, another cousin of the murdered boy, also American, was arrested in Israel the State Department confirmed on Wednesday.
Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf identified said he was "Mohammed Abu Khdeir," the same name as his murdered cousin.
"We can confirm that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a US citizen, was arrested on July 28. The US consulate general in Jerusalem is providing consular assistance. A consular official visited him on August 14. The consulate is also in contact with Mr. Khdeir's family and his lawyer," Harf said Wednesday.
"We are concerned the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the government of Israel. And we are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appeared to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities," Harf said.