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Israel kills 3 Hamas military commanders in Gaza

  • Palestinian doctors treats an injured baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinian doctors treats an injured baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • Palestinian doctor treats an injured child, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinian doctor treats an injured child, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • Palestinians children wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinians children wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • Palestinian relatives grieve during the funeral for a senior commander of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, who was killed in early morning Israeli strikes, at his family house in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. The pre-dawn strike leveled a four-story house in a densely populated neighborhood of Rafah, killing at least six people, including Abu Shamaleh and two other senior Hamas commanders. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinian relatives grieve during the funeral for a senior commander of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, who was killed in early morning Israeli strikes, at his family house in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. The pre-dawn strike leveled a four-story house in a densely populated neighborhood of Rafah, killing at least six people, including Abu Shamaleh and two other senior Hamas commanders. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • A Palestinian medic carries a wounded baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    A Palestinian medic carries a wounded baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • Palestinian doctors treat children wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinian doctors treat children wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • Palestinians wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

    Palestinians wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

  • A Palestinian man chants angry slogans as rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli strikes in the Rafah refugee camp, Southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    A Palestinian man chants angry slogans as rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli strikes in the Rafah refugee camp, Southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Palestinian doctors treats an injured baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • Palestinian doctor treats an injured child, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • Palestinians children wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • Palestinian relatives grieve during the funeral for a senior commander of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, who was killed in early morning Israeli strikes, at his family house in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. The pre-dawn strike leveled a four-story house in a densely populated neighborhood of Rafah, killing at least six people, including Abu Shamaleh and two other senior Hamas commanders. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • A Palestinian medic carries a wounded baby, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • Palestinian doctors treat children wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • Palestinians wait for treatment, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
  • A Palestinian man chants angry slogans as rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house destroyed in Israeli strikes in the Rafah refugee camp, Southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israel stepped up its campaign against Hamas yesterday, killing three of the Gaza-based group’s senior military commanders in an airstrike that pulverized a four-story home, the second such attack targeting top leaders in two days.

The pinpoint pre-dawn attack on Hamas’s inner sanctum was launched minutes after the men emerged from tunnel hideouts, a security official said – displaying the long reach of Israel’s intelligence services.

The killing of the commanders, who played a key role in expanding Hamas’s military capabilities in recent years, was bound to lower morale in the secretive group, but might not necessarily diminish its ability to fire rockets at Israel.

Yesterday’s strike in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, coupled with a Cabinet decision to call up 10,000 more reserve soldiers, signaled an escalation in the Israel-Hamas war after Egyptian cease-fire efforts collapsed this week.

Since July 8, fighting has claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian lives, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian officials and the U.N., and entire neighborhoods of Gaza have been destroyed. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a guest worker also have been killed.

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas leader in exile admitted that Hamas was behind the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank – the group’s first claim of responsibility for the June attack that triggered an Israeli crackdown and eventually led to the Gaza war.

Saleh Arouri told an international conference of Islamic scholars in Turkey on Wednesday that Hamas grabbed the teens in hopes of sparking a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.

This week’s resumption of Gaza fighting came after several failed rounds of indirect talks of Israel and Hamas in Cairo.

Egyptian mediators had proposed that in exchange for quiet on the Israel-Gaza border, Israel gradually ease a border blockade it had imposed on Gaza, alongside Egypt, after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Hamas rejected the proposal, saying Israel didn’t offer anything specific.

In an apparent attempt to revive diplomacy, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Qatar yesterday with his main Palestinian rival, Khaled Mashaal, the top Hamas leader in exile.

Abbas lost control of Gaza in the Hamas takeover seven years ago, but several months ago signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas that was to give him a new foothold in the territory.

During the Cairo talks, Abbas confidants in a joint delegation with Hamas had urged the Islamic militants to accept the Egyptian offer, without success. Some in the Abbas camp had pointed fingers at Mashaal and his host and backer, Qatar.

Abbas was to head to Cairo for top-level meetings today.

At the United Nations, three European countries – Britain, Germany and France – were working on a Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire and international monitoring to ensure implantation, said a U.N. diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss sensitive deliberations.

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