Israeli airstrike kills 3 sons, 4 grandchildren of Hamas leader in Gaza

FILE - Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024.

Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip claimed the lives of three sons and four grandchildren of Hamas’ top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, according to a report by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

These attacks occurred during a critical juncture in the ongoing conflict, as Israel continues engages in delicate cease-fire negotiations with the militant group.

Who is Ismail Haniyeh? 

Ismail Haniyeh is a Palestinian political leader and senior official of the Islamist organization Hamas. He served as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority from 2006 to 2014, leading the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip after the group won parliamentary elections in 2006. 

Haniyeh is considered one of Hamas's most prominent figures and has played a significant role in Palestinian politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The death of his children and grandchildren are among the highest-profile figures to be killed in the war so far. Israel said they were Hamas operatives, and Haniyeh accused Israel of acting in "the spirit of revenge and murder."

Why were Haniyeh's children targeted? 

According to reports from Hamas, the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Ismail Haniyeh's hometown, was the tragic site where Hazem, Amir, and Mohammed Haniyeh, his three sons, lost their lives.

According to Al-Aqsa TV, the brothers were traveling with family members in a single vehicle when they were targeted by an Israeli drone.

The Israeli military stated that Mohammed and Hazem were Hamas military operatives, and Amir was a cell commander. They alleged that the three had been involved in militant activities in the central Gaza Strip, although they did not provide further details. The military did not comment on the grandchildren who were also killed.

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The killings coincide with mounting pressure on Israel, particularly from its primary ally, the U.S., to shift its approach in the conflict, particularly regarding humanitarian assistance for the suffering population in Gaza.

Haniyeh affirmed that Hamas would not yield to the pressure exerted by the strike on his family.

"The enemy believes that by targeting the families of the leaders, it will push them to give up the demands of our people," Haniyeh told the Al Jazeera satellite channel. "Anyone who believes that targeting my sons will push Hamas to change its position is delusional."

The strike on Haniyeh's family cast a somber shadow over an already bleak Eid al-Fitr holiday for Palestinians, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Amidst visits to gravesites of loved ones lost in the conflict, Palestinians in the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City mourned quietly amidst the ruins left by Israel's offensive, launched in response to a deadly Hamas attack on October 7.

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As the suffering persists in Gaza, Israel faces mounting pressure, including from its key ally, the United States, to change its approach in the conflict, particularly regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid.

In an interview with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision recorded on April 3 and aired recently, President Joe Biden criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the Gaza conflict and urged increased aid to the embattled territory. Biden reiterated this call on Wednesday, stating that current aid efforts were insufficient and demanding additional entry points for aid trucks in northern Gaza.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.