Hamas Senior Commander Bassem Issa, Other Militants Killed by Israeli Rocket

Hamas militants confirmed Wednesday that Bassem Issa, the chief Gaza City commander for the Islamic group, was killed by an Israeli airstrike, the Associated Press reported.

Issa was the senior-most Hamas member to be killed by Israeli forces in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict since 2014, according to a statement released by Hamas. The message is the first acknowledgment from the group regarding militant casualties in the current round of fighting with Israel.

"With all the signs of pride, fortitude and defiance, the Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades offer to the sons of our people and our nation everywhere the martyrdom of the Qassam mujahid commander Bassem Issa 'Abu Imad' commander of the Gaza Brigade in the al-Qassam Brigades, and a group of his brothers, the leaders and the mujahideen who rose during the occupation's aggression against the positions, the capabilities and the ambushes of the resistance." the statement said.

Internal security in Israel announced that Israeli airstrikes had killed Issa and other senior Hamas militants, including the head of rocket development and cyber warfare, the head of rocket production and the Hamas engineering chief.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Israel
An Israeli soldier stands guard next to an Iron Dome air defense system as smoke rises from an oil tank on fire after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza Strip, near the town of Ashkelon, Israel, on May 12, 2021. AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

The Latest on confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians as Israel signals a widening military campaign:

BELGRADE, Serbia — Dozens of Palestinians living in Belgrade have staged a protest in the Serbian capital over an escalation in fighting in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

The protesters on Wednesday gathered at Belgrade's Republic Square to draw public attention to the conflict that has surged after weeks of violence in Jerusalem.

The protesters carried banners reading "Gaza needs our voices now," and, "Freedom!"

The latest Mideast fighting is rooted in a long dispute over contested Jerusalem. After Hamas rained rockets inside Israel on Monday, the conflict suddenly erupted and now increasingly resembles the 2014 Gaza war.

This infographic shows the number of people killed and wounded in Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2008. Statista

Statista: https://www.statista.com/chartoftheday/

Johnson wants urgent de-escalation

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants to see an "urgent de-escalation of tensions" between Israel and Hamas amid the most severe outbreak of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Johnson tweeted on Wednesday that the United Kingdom is "deeply concerned" and urged leaders to "step back from the brink."

He was one of many leaders around the world offering up advice after longtime tensions in contested Jerusalem erupted into rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip and an intense response from Israel.

British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told Parliament that Britain "unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and other locations in Israel." He called Hamas' conduct "terrorism" and called on militants to "end their incitement and rocket fire against Israel."

Cleverly said Israel has a "legitimate right to self-defense," but added that in doing so, "it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with international humanitarian law and make every effort to avoid civilian casualties."

Fire at petroleum facility

JERUSALEM — Israel's firefighting service says it has almost completely extinguished a blaze at a petroleum facility in southern Israel that was set alight by a rocket fired by Hamas militants.

The rocket landed Tuesday night near a Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures Ltd. facility south of Ashkelon during a major barrage by Gaza militants. The result was a massive fire in a storage tank that blazed through the night and into Wednesday.

Israel Fire and Rescue Services said that 20 teams have been working for 25 hours to extinguish the inferno that issued a column of thick black smoke. Israeli state-owned Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures said the fuel had been transferred to another storage facility.

On Wednesday, the plume of smoke was still rising over Ashkelon. Israeli health and environment officials have instructed residents of the area to avoid prolonged periods outdoors.

Border fire
A man walks through debris after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck on May 12, 2021, in Giv'atayim, Israel. Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images