Who was the senior Hamas official killed in Gaza City?

Gaza City in the north of the enclave has been at the centre of Israeli operations over the past week [GETTY]

A senior Hamas government official was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on Saturday, Gaza’s government media office announced.

Ihab Ribhi al-Ghussein, who was an engineer and deputy minister of labour in the Hamas government in Gaza City, was killed following an Israeli air strike on a school in Gaza City, according to reports.

Al-Ghussein, who managed government affairs in the north of the enclave, was killed alongside three others in the bombing of the Holy Family School in Gaza City, the BBC reported on Sunday, with two classrooms, where people were sheltering, hit.

Gaza City has been under intense bombardment over the past week as the Israeli military re-engaged in fighting with Palestinian groups in the area which has seen dozens of civilians killed and wounded.

A statement from Gaza’s government media office on Sunday confirmed the man’s death and said his wife and daughter had were also killed in an attack on their home earlier in the war.

“Eng. Ihab Al-Ghussein was martyred to join his wife and daughter, who were killed by the Israeli occupation army in a previous bombing of a house where they were displaced after the occupation warplanes bombed and completely destroyed their house west of Gaza City,” Gaza’s government media office said.

The statement said that Al-Ghussein’s death would not deter the administration from “performing our national duty towards the Palestinian people” and continue “to serve them and support their steadfastness in the face of this brutal aggression”.

As a member of the Hamas administration, his death was not a blow militarily but he was considered a senior figure in the government.

Al-Ghussein was born in 1979 and studied engineering at the University of Gaza. He previously served in the communications and interior ministries of the government during the 2010s.

The Palestinian group, whose armed wing al-Qassam Brigades is engaged in battles with the Israeli military, has been in power in Gaza since 2007.

Israel’s nine-month-long offensive in the dense enclave has destroyed much of the civil administration and government infrastructure, including municipality buildings in Gaza City, while countless doctors, council workers, journalists, and other civilian workers have been killed.

In December, Israel destroyed Gaza’s main courthouse, adding to a list of more than 100 government buildings which have been damaged during the war.

Other civil and government officials, though not directly involved in the fighting, are among the more than 38,000 Palestinians killed by Israel.

Most recently, senior health official Hani al-Jaafarawi, Gaza’s director of ambulances and emergency was killed in June.

Dozens of members of Gaza’s police unit have been killed by Israel as they have worked to accompany aid convoys in the war-torn territory.

The absence of a local civil administration has prompted a collapse in law and order, exacerbating the already dangerous conditions for civilians and resulting in the emergence of vigilante groups.  

The most significant hit outside the enclave was the assassination of the deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau Saleh al-Arouri by a drone strike in Beirut in January.

Al-Arouri was killed alongside seven other Hamas members, two of whom were allegedly involved with al-Qassam, in a direct strike on a building in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Speaking on Sunday, Abu Obeida the military spokesman for al-Qassam Brigades, said that after nine months of intense fighting with Israel Hamas retains a strong fighting force with many new fighters recruited during the war.

“There are thousands more who are ready and highly motivated to join whenever necessary,” Abu Obeida said, in comments carried by The New Arab’s Arabic language sister outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

“We are still fighting in Gaza without external support or supplies of weapons and equipment, and our people are still steadfast without food, water or medicine, and under a criminal and unjust war of extermination,” the commander said in a videotaped message.

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