Gaza news flashIsrael kills Hamas's No. 3 leader

Published 15 January 2009

An Israel Air Force strike kills Hamas’s interior minister Said Siam and the head of Hamas security apparatus, Salah Abu Shreh

Another blow to Hamas: A Israel Air Force (IAF) strike in Gaza City has killed two of Hamas’ most senior officials, including Hamas’s Interior Minister Said Siam and the head of its security apparatus, Salah Abu Shreh.

Siam was the number three behind Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, and was seen by many as the most extreme of the triumvirate.

The killing of Siam is reminiscent of other assassinations by Israel of Hamas leaders. The most prominent of these leaders were Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin (killed 22 March 2004), Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (killed 17 April 2004), and Salah Sehada (killed 23 July 2002).

The IAF strike was on the house of Siam’s brother, who was also killed. Haaretz reports that Palestinian medical officials confirmed the house was attacked.

Siam was the effective founder of the Hamas-led police force. There will no tears shed for Siam by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and in Fatah circles: Siam orchestrated Hamas’s bloody 2006 coup in Gaza, during which it ousted the rival Fatah faction from power. On his orders, Fatah followers and their families were tortured and killed. He also ordered that some Fatah leaders be killed in an especially gruesome manner: They were thrown, alive, off the roofs of high-rise buildings.

Six other Hamas operatives were wounded in the air strike in the heart of Gaza City. The IDF Southern Command ordered the air strike on the basis of precise intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security service.

The attack on Siam was one of many attacks during the night between Wednesday and Thursday — a night that saw the heaviest bombardment by the IAF on Hamas targets in Gaza in nearly two weeks.

On the ground, the IDF has pushed deeper into Gaza, taking control of of three of its neighborhoods. Hamas fighters continue to avoid engaging the Israeli forces, relying instead on sniper fire, mortars, and antitank weapons.

The price the Palestinians pay for the war is heavy, and it continues to mount: to date, 1,070 Palestinians have been killed, about half of them civilians, and some 5,000 injured — most of them civilians.

Israel has so far suffered 12 dead (4 civilians and 8 soldiers) and about 150 wounded (of which 12  — 10 soldiers and 2 civilians — are in serious condition).  

AP reports that early estimates of the damage Israel has inflicted on the Gaza infrastructure put the figure at $1.4 billion.