TEL AVIV—Israel said Tuesday it was focusing on targeted killings of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip as its military tries to quell the militant group’s operations there, defying growing calls for a cease-fire amid a rising civilian toll.
The Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza aiming at what it says are Hamas’s military infrastructure and personnel. It says it has killed senior members of the group’s intelligence arm and on Sunday struck the home of Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza.
“We will hit anyone who belongs to Hamas. From the first to the last,” Israeli military spokesman Hidai Zilberman told Kan public radio.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, says Israel has only successfully killed a limited number of its operatives.
Scores of civilians have been killed and displaced from their homes since the conflict began on May 10. At least 213 people, including 61 children, have been killed in Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry. More than 1,400 Palestinians have been injured and tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes, according to the ministry and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Palestinian media reported that the Israeli strikes on Tuesday were less intensive but spread out and focused on individual homes rather than larger buildings. The Gaza health ministry also said Tuesday at least 12 medical staff were injured the previous day when an Israeli airstrike hit a tower near a medical clinic. It called on the international community to ensure Israel didn’t fire on medical facilities.
In Israel, emergency services said two Thai nationals died Tuesday after further rocket attacks from Gaza on communities in southern Israel. Thousands of Thai laborers work in Israel’s agricultural sector.
In total, 12 people, including one child, have been killed in Israel since Hamas began launching rockets and antitank missiles on May 10, according to emergency services and the Israeli military. Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities but most have been intercepted by the country’s missile-defense system, according to the Israeli military.
Some observers say focusing on targeted killings might give Israel the ability to stop its campaign in Gaza by declaring victory to the Israeli public but risks spiraling violence with Hamas attempting to avenge their slain leaders.
Gershon Baskin, a political analyst who worked in the past as an interlocutor between Israel and the militants, said Israeli statements on the targeting of Hamas leaders typically surface before the fighting stops.
“It’s always a familiar cry before a cease-fire,” he said.
President Biden voiced support late Monday for a cease-fire in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr. Biden “expressed his support for a cease-fire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners toward that end,” according to a White House statement. The statement stopped short of a demand to end the fighting.
The European Union is set to discuss how to end the violence at an emergency video meeting on Tuesday. Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign-policy chief, in a tweet said he had exchanged views with Secretary of State Antony Blinken toward stopping the fighting.
“Looking beyond, we also need longer term initiatives to break the dynamics of conflict and revive the prospect of a peaceful future for all,” Mr. Borrell tweeted.
At a press briefing on a visit to Iceland, Mr. Blinken said he had spoken Tuesday with officials from Morocco and Bahrain and was in touch with Hady Amr, the U.S. envoy to the Israelis and Palestinians.
“Our goal remains to bring the current cycle of violence to an end as quickly as possible and then bring the parties back to the work of building lasting stability,” he said.
Despite the international pressure, the Israeli army said it would continue its campaign against Hamas for at least the next 24 hours to destroy much of the group’s military arm in Gaza.
Israel has frequently used targeted killings during conflicts with Hamas, aiming to disrupt its operations and deter the group from attacking Israeli territory. Exchanges of fire in 2012 escalated into a wider conflict when Israel killed Hamas’s top military commander, Ahmed Jabari, in an airstrike.
In 2014, when the two sides fought the most recent of their three wars, Israel attempted to kill the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif. His wife and two children died in the attempt.
Mr. Deif has been the target of several other failed assassination attempts, leaving him disabled. Israel has since struggled to locate him in Gaza.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How likely are Israel and Hamas to reach a cease-fire in the coming days? Join the conversation below.
On Monday, an Israeli airstrike killed Husam Abu Harbeed, a commander of Islamic Jihad, another militant group in the strip. The group confirmed the killing.
Hamas understands that targeted killings are “one of the main goals for the next few days,” Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Mr. Netanyahu, said of the Israeli military aims. “They are hiding. And know how to hide.”
Israel has said that since Hamas began launching rockets at Israel on May 10 it has destroyed all of the group and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s rocket manufacturing sites. There were 31 such sites and Israel says the groups won’t be able to produce more rockets in the short term. The Israeli military said Monday it had blown up the homes of 12 Hamas commanders over the past 24 hours. In total, Israel says it has killed at least 130 Hamas fighters in Gaza.
The Palestinian ministry of information on Tuesday said the Israeli strikes had leveled more than 1,000 homes and damaged a further 7,000 residential units, as well as 57 schools and medical clinics and millions of dollars worth of factories and industry.
—Ameera Harouda in Gaza City and William Mauldin in Reykjavik contributed to this article.
Corrections & Amplifications
Twelve people have been killed in Israel since Hamas began launching rockets and antitank missiles on May 10. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said 13 people had been killed. Also, an Israeli military spokesman is named Hidai Zilberman. He was incorrectly named Hildai Zilberman in an earlier version of this article. (Corrected on May 18)
Write to Rory Jones at [email protected]
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8