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Gaza City Hamas leader killed in Israeli airstrike

Gaza City Hamas leader killed in Israeli airstrike
© THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

The Palestinian militant group Hamas on Wednesday said that its Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa, was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

The Hamas armed wing said the commander was killed “along with a few of his fellow brothers of leaders and holy fighters," The Associated Press reports.

Issa is the highest-ranking military figure in Hamas to be killed since 2014. 

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The AP reports that Israel’s internal security agency confirmed the deaths, adding that the airstrike had killed the organization's head of rocket development and cyber warfare, the head of rocket production and its engineering chief.

According to Reuters, Israel stated the airstrike had killed 16 militant members of Hamas.

At least 53 deaths in Gaza have been confirmed since fighting began on Monday. Six people have been killed in Israel.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland warned that the situation is "escalating towards a full scale war."

"Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full scale war," Wennesland tweeted. "Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of deescalation."

He stated that the U.N. was working to restore calm. However, Palestinian sources told Reuters that efforts by the U.N. as well as Egypt and Qatar to end the violence have made no progress.