(Updates overall toll para 2, adds TV images)
GAZA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike killed Hamas’s interior minister, Saeed Seyyam, in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Hamas officials said.
His son, his brother and three other people were also killed in the attack that flattened a rented house in the Jabalya refugee camp and gouged a huge crater in the ground. Four other people died in a neighbouring house, medics said.
Local television in Gaza showed Seyyam’s body being brought to a hospital, his face still recognisable and his eyes open.
Seyyam was in charge of 13,000 Hamas police and security men, many of whom are actively involved in fighting Israel. He founded the so-called Executive Force, a Hamas security branch originally set up to rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential guard.
A Hamas official vowed vengeance for his death.
"The blood of Saeed Seyyam will be a curse on the Zionist entity," Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal told Al Jazeera television.
Seyyam was appointed after Hamas won a Palestinian election in January 2006. Eighteen months later, the Islamist group’s fighters drove their Fatah rivals from the Gaza Strip.
His killing is a major loss for Hamas. He was regarded as a smart leader and an outspoken preacher.
Outlining his policies, Seyyam told Reuters in an interview in March 2006: "The day will never come when any Palestinian would be arrested because of his political affiliation or because of resisting the occupation.
"On the contrary, the new Hamas regime will seek to better coordinate the Palestinian assault on the Jewish state."