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Israeli attack kills security officer, 2 Hamas militants in south Gaza

Nov. 15, 2012 7:20 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2012 9:02 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel killed a senior police official in the Gaza Strip government and two members of Hamas' military wing in early morning attacks, medics said Thursday.

Security commander Habes Masmah, 30, was targeted while riding a motorcycle east of Khan Younis, medics said. His body was taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Two members of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades were also killed in the attack. They were identified as Wael Haidar al-Ghalban and Hisham Muhammad al-Ghalban.

The Israeli military targeted 100 "rocket launch and infrastructure sites" across the Gaza Strip overnight, an army statement said early Thursday.

"This has significantly damaged the rocket launch capabilities and munitions warehouses operated by Hamas and other terror organizations," the statement said.

"The aim of targeting these sites is to impair the rocket launching capability of terror organizations in the Gaza strip and damage their further build up."

The attack on Khan Younis brought to 11 the number of Palestinians killed since Wednesday afternoon, when Israel killed a top Hamas security commander in a targeted assassination.

Three children and an elderly man were among eight killed Wednesday.

No action at UN

In New York, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli strikes against the Gaza Strip but took no action, as Israel threatened a wider offensive.

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the 15-nation Security Council this month, told reporters after the 90-minute closed-door meeting that council members had only agreed to issue a communique stating that an emergency meeting took place and other procedural details.

Speaking on behalf of India, not the Security Council, Puri expressed the hope that the fact the council meeting took place would help to ease tensions in the Middle East and prevent an escalation of the conflict.

"The message that must be taken from this meeting is the violence must stop," he said, adding that the council was prepared to meet again on Gaza if necessary.

The Palestinians Authority had asked the council to issue a statement urging Israel to halt its offensive, but no such declaration was agreed.

Israel launched a new major offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Wednesday, killing Hamas' military commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of hell."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office said earlier in two separate statements that he spoke on the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mohamed Mursi of Egypt.

"(Ban) expressed his concern (to Netanyahu) about the deteriorating situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza," the United Nations said.

Ban also voiced his expectation that "Israeli reactions are measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed."

He also discussed with Mursi "the need to prevent any further deterioration," the United Nations said.

US President Barack Obama also spoke with Netanyahu and Mursi and reiterated US support for Israel's right to self-defense in light of rocket attacks from Gaza, the White House said.

"The president urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. The two agreed that Hamas needs to stop its attacks on Israel to allow the situation to de-escalate," the White House statement said.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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