The ‘Honor of Martyrdom’

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An Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Wednesday killed three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who afterward insisted the deaths would not affect ongoing ceasefire negotiations between the Palestinian group and Israel, CNN reported.

The three brothers were visiting relatives in a refugee camp in Gaza City to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when their car was hit, the Gazan government media office said. Hamas reported that four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren also died in the attack, which came as truce talks in Cairo, Egypt continue to show little signs of progress.

“Whoever thinks that by targeting my kids during the negotiation talks and before a deal is agreed upon that it will force Hamas to back down on its demands, is delusional,” Haniyeh told Al Jazeera. “(I) thank God for bestowing upon us the honor of their martyrdom.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed having carried out the attack that killed Amir, Mohammad and Hazem Haniyeh, saying the three “conducted terrorist activity in the central Gaza Strip,” and were on their way to continue that activity, the Times of Israel reported.

However, the IDF did not confirm having killed Mona, Amal, Khalid, and Razan, the four Haniyeh grandchildren that Hamas reported as killed in the attack, while calling them “martyrs.”

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not made aware of the attack ahead of time and denied carrying out the strike in connection with the ceasefire negotiations. “Israel will continue and eliminate every terrorist operative,” they said.

Hamas and Israeli delegates have met since Sunday in Cairo to discuss a pause in the conflict, now in its seventh month. Israeli negotiators are under pressure from the international community, including Israel’s ally, the United States, to grant a ceasefire and allow aid into Gaza. CIA director Bill Burns has also attended the talks and attempted to broker a deal.

A recent US proposal suggested Israel release more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages, including all the women and sick and elderly men, held by Hamas in Gaza in the first round of a three-stage truce deal.

However, Hamas on Wednesday said it could not track down 40 hostages meeting the required criteria.

Most of the remaining 96 hostages are still alive, according to Israeli intelligence, and are thought to be male soldiers or reservists.

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