Israeli aircraft, tanks and navy gunboats pounded symbols of Hamas control in Gaza City early Tuesday, in the heaviest bombardment in three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting.
The strikes hit the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, as well as government offices and the headquarters of the Hamas satellite TV station.
Israeli tank shells hit a fuel tank of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant on Tuesday, forcing the plant to shut down, a spokesman for Gaza’s electricity distribution company said.
Even before the strike, Gaza residents had electricity for only about three hours a day. The strike is bound to reduce supplies even further.
There was no immediate word of casualties and the Israeli military had no comment.
In central Gaza City early Tuesday, at least two major explosions hit a media complex housing the offices of Hamas-run Al Aqsa television and radio. The blasts shook surrounding buildings and started a fire on the roof of the office block, one of Gaza’s tallest.
AP video showed a massive flash as the first strike hit the top of the building, sending debris raining down. The building also houses offices of a number of Arab satellite television news channels.
Israeli forces fired hundreds of flares that turned the night sky bright orange. By daybreak Tuesday, a cloud of thick dust from the explosions hung over Gaza City.
The escalation came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” campaign in Gaza.
Israel has lost 53 soldiers, along with two civilians and a Thai national.
A Palestinian health official put the overall Gaza death toll at 1,110.
Heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting
The overnight strikes came after a day of heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting in which nine children were killed by a strike on a Gaza park where they were playing, according to Palestinian health officials, a tragedy that each side blamed on the other.
Israeli tanks also resumed heavy shelling in border areas of Gaza, killing five people, including three children and a 70-year-old woman, and wounding 50 in the town of Jebaliya, which was among the areas warned to evacuate, the Red Crescent said.
The latest bloodshed came despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire and followed failed attempts by both sides to agree to even a lull in fighting of several hours for the start of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.
After three weeks of bloodshed, both Israel and Hamas are holding out for bigger gains and a ceasefire remains elusive, despite an appeal by the UN Security Council and growing pressure from the United States.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.
The Obama administration pushed back Monday against a torrent of Israeli criticism over Kerry’s latest bid to secure a ceasefire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.
“It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
UN concern over evacuation orders
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the reports of Israeli forces dropping leaflets over northern Gaza Monday evening warning tens of thousands of residents to leave their homes and evacuate to Gaza City, according to a statement released by his spokesman.
“If true, this would have a further devastating humanitarian impact on the beleaguered civilians of those areas of the Gaza Strip, who have already undergone immense suffering in recent days,” it said.
“The United Nations agencies present in Gaza do not have the resources on the ground to cope with, or provide assistance to, an enormous extra influx of desperate people.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-07-29