TWO senior Hamas terror chiefs were wiped out overnight by Israeli airstrikes — as Army commanders pledged to kill more.
The Israel Defence Forces said that it had eliminated Asem Abu Rakaba and Rateb Abu Tshaiban — as well as taking out other high-ranking officials.
Abu Rakaba was the brutal warlord in charge of the gun-toting paragliders unit which swooped over the border to slaughter Israeli civilians.
Soldiers from his Aerial Array division also butchered innocent civilians at the Supernova music festival, where at least 260 died.
The Israel Defence Forces said: “IDF fighter jets struck Asem Abu Rakaba, the Head of Hamas’ Aerial Array.”
Hamas’ naval forces commander Abu Tshaiban, who planned and commanded a foiled infiltration attempt by sea on Tuesday, was also taken out by an Israeli strike.
Israel’s air force uploaded footage of the fatal fighter jet strike online.
It came as Israeli forces confirmed they had taken out 150 underground tunnels in the bombardment over Friday night.
Three other Hamas leaders including Daraj-Tuffah Battalion commander Rifaat Abbas were also neutralised.
His deputy Ibrahim Jadba and third-in-line Tarek Maarouf were also killed in the aerial blitz on Thursday.
Abbas’ battalion is part of the Gaza City Brigade, which is considered the most significant and powerful regiment inside Hamas and its military wing Al-Qassam Brigades.
Hamas deputy intelligence leader Shadi Barud, who helped plan the October 7 attack, was also killed on the same day by an Israeli Air Force strike.
Jets fired on several Hamas-operated buildings which swiftly collapsed, causing clouds of smoke to billow into the sky.
Barud was involved in planning several terrorist attacks against Israelis, according to the IDF.
The group are the latest in a line of more than a dozen terror leaders picked off by IDF strikes in the past three weeks.
IDF army chief Herzi Halevi said in a video address tonight Israel would continue to “target and eliminate commanders of the Hamas terrorist organisation”.
He added: “This is a war with multiple stages. Today we move to the next one.
“Our enemy has had hundreds killed and infrastructure destroyed.
“From myself to every soldier in the Gaza Strip, we will do everything to succeed in this effort.
“We will remember to fight with determination, and we will win.”
He added the mission to return safely the 229 hostages abducted by terrorists and held in Gaza was a “supreme national effort”.
Hamas’ Gaza Strip leader Yahya Sinwar said terrorists would release hostages in exchange for an estimated 10,000 Palestinians that are held in Israeli jails.
But IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari slammed the proposal and said it was “psychological terrorism”, adding: “Hamas does not communicate with Israel on these matters.”
Hamas had previously claimed without evidence that 50 Israeli hostages in Gaza had been killed by their own nation’s bombs and shells.
Only four hostages have been released so far as negotiators — including Qatar — urged Israel to delay their planned invasion of the enclave.
Today a statement from the families of the kidnapped Israelis expressed “great concern and anxiety” at the escalation of hostilities.
The first signs that Israel was ramping up its operation came on Friday when Gaza’s internet and mobile phone networks went down for more than 15 hours, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the “next stage” was looming.
Fighter jets dropped devastating 5,000lb bunker-buster bombs to penetrate Hamas boltholes deep underground in the tunnel network dubbed the Gaza Metro.
Some 150 terrorist lairs buried deep underground were hit in shock and awe raids as tanks rolled in on two fronts in Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun.
As daylight broke, the devastation around Beit Hanoun could be seen. Building after building had been crushed.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declared Israel was moving up the gears to achieve its stated aim of “eliminating Hamas”.
He said: “We attacked above the ground and under it. We attacked terrorist operatives from all levels everywhere.
“The directives to the forces are clear: the operation will continue until further notice.”
“Tonight the earth in Gaza shook. We have shifted phases in the war.”
Israeli Lt Col Avichay Adraee added: “Infantry, armour, engineering, and artillery forces are participating in this operation, and it is accompanied by intense gunfire.
“Expansion of operations serves all war aims at this time.
“The IDF conducts a continuous assessment of the situation and moves forward in line with the phases of the fighting.”
Hamas responded, saying its estimated 35,000 fighters were “fully prepared to confront the aggression with full force and thwart the incursions” — stating Israel would “taste a greater defeat than he expected or feared.”
Revenge strikes were fired towards cities including Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and border town Sderot.
The majority of rockets were halted by Israel’s £600million Iron Dome defence system. But one did hit Tel Aviv, injuring three people.
The Gaza health ministry — controlled by Hamas — said Israeli strikes have now killed 7,650 people — including more than 3,000 children, whilst 19,450 were injured.
And on the West Bank, 111 were said to have died and 1,950 injured, Palestine’s health officials added.
Israel had warned roughly one million Gazans living in the north of the 25-mile long strip to evacuate before the strikes.
The IDF today reissued the call — as around 400,000 Palestinians are still feared to be in northern areas of the enclave.
Mr Hagari told Palestinian civilians: “This is not a mere precaution. It is an urgent plea for the safety of civilians in Gaza.”