GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli forces entered a northern Gaza town early Saturday and seized a Hamas leader from his home amid heavy fighting with Palestinian gunmen, Hamas members and a Palestinian health official said. The wanted man’s 14-year-old daughter was killed.
The fighting erupted in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel. The army confirmed the raid, saying its forces exchanged fire with Palestinian militants.
Despite the renewed violence, Egypt is making another attempt to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel. The deal also would include a prisoner swap and the opening of Gaza border crossings; the territory has been virtually sealed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’ violent takeover last June.
Israel is to respond in coming days to Hamas’ latest proposal, which includes a six-month truce. Hamas’ Gaza strongman, Mahmoud Zahar, said that if Israel rejects the deal, “all options are open.” He issued the implied threat of more violence in a televised statement Friday, after he returned from talks in Cairo.
On Saturday, a former Israeli deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, said the government should not accept a truce with Hamas.
He said anything that prolongs Hamas rule in Gaza, including a cease-fire, runs counter Israel’s interest. “There is a zero-sum game between us and Hamas,” Sneh told Israel Radio, adding that he believes Israel will eventually have to try to oust the Islamic militants by force.
Sneh is a legislator from Israel’s Labor Party, which is headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The military has said it would continue pursuing Hamas militants as long as they threaten Israeli civilians. Hamas and other groups have fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli border towns in recent years.
The apparent target of the Israeli raid in northern Gaza on Saturday was Talat Hassan Marouf. The fighting took place around his house, and Israeli forces withdrew after detaining him, said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing.
The military said Israeli troops came under fire from inside the house, where Marouf’s family was at the time.
His 14-year old daughter, Mariam, was killed by shrapnel from heavy machine guns, said Dr. Moawiya Hassanain, a Palestinian Health Ministry official. Her mother was injured. Nine other Palestinians , including seven gunmen, also were wounded in the fighting, said Hassanain. Three of the gunmen were in critical condition, he said.
An army official said the family asked to be evacuated and was eventually permitted to do so by Israeli troops. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with army regulations, couldn’t say if this was before or after the girl was killed.
The wanted Hamas member then turned himself in, the army official said.
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanou said, however, that the army prevented medics from arriving at the house to evacuate the injured daughter and wife, leading to the girl’s death.
He said troops attacked Marouf’s house with shells and missiles, causing its destruction.
Abu Obeida, who had given the initial account of the fighting, was not immediately available to comment on the details provided by the military.