JERUSALEM/GAZA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Israel approved on Thursday the call up of 10,000 reserve soldiers, amidst expected escalation in the fighting in Gaza following the assassination overnight of top Hamas leaders by Israeli forces.
The large call-up was approved by telephone vote among cabinet ministers, hours after Israel inflicted yet the worst blow on Hamas since the beginning of the Gaza war in July 8, killing overnight three senior commanders of the organization -- Mohammed Abu Shamlah, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.
Palestinian health officials said the airstrike killed at least six more people and dozens remained trapped under the ruins of a four-story building that Israel struck in the southern town of Rafah.
Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, vowed the Islamist group will make Israel "pay the price" for the killing. Israel "will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or weaken the resistance," he said.
The incident came a day after Israel had attempted to assassinate Mohammad Deif, chief of Hamas' military wing and number one on Israel's most wanted list. The fate of Deif remained unknown, but the air attack on his home killed his wife and child.
The attack triggered an unprecedented barrage of more than 163 rockets at Israel in less than a day.
Ashraf al-Qedra, the health ministry spokesman in Gaza, told reporters that Israeli war jets' missiles on the Gaza Strip had so far killed 27 Palestinians on Thursday, including the three top militants, members of Hamas armed wing al-Qassam Brigades.
Israel and Hamas resumed the fighting after the indirect negotiations in Cairo, aiming at achieving ceasefire in the hostility which began on July 8, had collapsed on Tuesday.
More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed and 10,000 injured as a result of the Israeli offensive. Sixty-seven Israelis have died, 64 of them were soldiers.