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Family of prominent Hamas leader killed in Israeli airstrike

Jan. 1, 2009 2:56 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2009 2:56 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Hamas confirmed the death of one of its most prominent leaders, Nizar Rayan, in an Israeli airstrike that targeted his home in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp on Thursday.

Three Israeli missiles struck his home, killing his wife and 13 other family members, including several children.

Palestinian medical sources that that many bodies are still under the rubble of his house, but have managed to identify Rayan's son, six-year-old Abed Ar-Rahman.

The airstrike destroyed a four-story building in a densely populated neighborhood, leading to a massive number of killed and injured; among the dead appears to be Rayan's entire family.

Israeli TV said that the Hamas-affiliated "bank of targets" includes Hamas leaders and their homes. Another Israeli source claimed that secondary explosions at the house were caused by stores of weapons Rayan was maintaining.

Local witnesses told Ma'an that Rayan had not evacuated his house despite a warning from the Israeli military.

The head of Emergency and Ambulance Services within the de facto Ministry of Health, Mu'wieyah Hasaneen, affirmed that 14 bodies of the killed were members of Rayan's family.

Rayan was a prominent Hamas political leader, closely affiliated with its armed wing, the Al-Qasam Brigades.

He was also a lecturer at Gaza's Islamic University in Gaza City, where he "ranked among Hamas's top-five decision-makers as the liaison between the group's military and political wing," according to Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

The newspaper also described Rayan as "an outspoken advocate for renewing suicide bombings in Israel."

***Updated 21:11 Bethlehem time
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