The Israeli military on Tuesday released an annotated photo of senior Hamas military leaders, in which the army indicated that five of the 11 gathered commanders had been killed.
Among those in the photo the army said it had eliminated were the head of Hamas’s aerial division, two battalion commanders, a brigade commander and a deputy brigade commander.
The rare photo of the Hamas leaders, the Israeli military said, was taken while the group hid in a tunnel underneath a residential neighborhood near the Indonesian hospital in the northern Gaza city of Beit Lahia.
An Israeli intelligence unit analyzed the picture after it was seized in Gaza but did not reveal who initially took the photograph. Some of the photograph’s details, including its exact date and location, could not be immediately independently verified.
Israeli forces have targeted the Hamas leadership since the group launched an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, the deadliest day in Israeli history.
Since then, Israel has declared war on Hamas with the intent of destroying the organization. It has placed Gaza, which the group has controlled since 2007, under siege, cutting civilians off from regular supplies of food and fuel, and subjected the strip to a deadly bombing campaign.
“Hamas wanted to tear us apart; we are tearing it apart,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, after meeting with the families of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu’s government is under pressure over whether to continue to pummel Hamas or broker another truce that would allow for more exchanges.
Israel, he said, in a nod to the current strategy, had killed “about half of Hamas’s battalion commanders.” But he did not provide the names and details of all of those killed.
The leaders in the photo are seen sitting at a long, low table festooned with fruit, drinks and other foods. Beneath the enclave are hundreds of tunnels Hamas has constructed to hide and transport weapons, fighters and materiel.
The military wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam, confirmed last month that at least three of the men in the picture had been killed, including Ahmed al-Ghandour, the northern Gaza military leader known as Abu Anas, and his deputy, Wael Rajab. Another was Rafet Salman, a Hamas battalion commander. In November, a spokesman for the Israeli military said its forces had attacked an underground site where Mr. al-Ghandour had been hiding.
Two other men in the picture that Israel said it had killed were accused of taking part in the planning of the Oct. 7 attacks. One, Asem Abu Rakba, oversaw Hamas’s drone program, the military said.
The killings are a setback for Hamas amid a powerful Israeli invasion that has leveled parts of northern Gaza, displaced what the United Nations says is more than 90 percent of the population and killed more than 15,500 people, according to the Gazan health ministry.
Israeli military commanders this week estimated they had killed several thousand Hamas fighters since the war began. Israeli officials said those estimates were based in part on the assumption that between 200 and 250 Hamas fighters had been killed if Israeli troops said they wiped out a Hamas battalion, and that if a commander was targeted and killed, a team of five or six people had died with him. Confirmation that a commander had been killed could take days to arrive, officials said, so the estimate was an “evolving reality.”
About 400 Israeli soldiers have died in fighting since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli military.
Israeli forces have in recent day advanced into southern Gaza in attempt to find and kill top Hamas leaders believed to be hiding there. That group includes Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, and Mohammed Deif, the head of the Qassam armed wing.
At one point, Mr. Sinwar and Mr. Deif were thought to be in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, where the army and Hamas fighters are engaged in heated urban combat.
On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu said in a video posted on the X platform: “Our forces are encircling Sinwar’s house. He can escape, but it is only a matter of time until we reach him.”
Even if Israel manages to kill the group’s current leaders, there is no guarantee that Israel will accomplish its stated goal of eliminating Hamas.
The U.S. has fought wars against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, badly battering both terror groups but not destroying either.
The Israeli military did not say why it decided to release the annotated photo.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Israeli military also said that the northern brigade, Hamas’s second largest, had been “significantly damaged.” The Israeli military also claimed it had also inflicted serious damage to battalions from the Gaza City Brigade.
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