Israeli forces have killed three senior Hamas military commanders in an air strike on the Gaza Strip, according to reports.
The Islamist militant group named the men as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum and said they were killed in a bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that "two senior terrorist commander of Hamas military wing", the al-Qassam brigades, were killed overnight by air forces. It did not mention the death of Barhoum.
The IDF said aircraft carried out 20 assaults in Gaza on Thursday. A Hamas spokesman said: "Israel will pay a heavy price for assaulting our commanders".
The IDF said that Raed Attar "played a major role in tunnel infiltrations, terror attacks that killed Israelis, and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit".
Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who wa held captive in Gaza for five years by Hamas and freed in 2011 in return for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. The Israel Forces added that Abu Shamala, commander of Hamas forces in Gaza "was directly involved in dozens of terror attacks, including the murders of IDF soldiers".
The statement did not mention Hamas' top military commander, Mohammed Deif, who was targeted later on Tuesday by Israeli forces. Deif's wife and seven-month-old son were killed in the air strike. Israeli analysts stated that Deif was at the house and that it was almost impossible for anyone to survive after the bombing. The death toll in Gaza rose to 2,050 Palestinians killed in the fighting, the majority of them civilians.
The killings came after al-Qassam brigades spokesman Abu Obeida threatened to strike Ben Gurion airport on Tel Aviv calling for airlines to suspend flights from 6am.
Egyptian-brokered talks to end fighting in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday when violence broke out.