Israel-Gaza conflict: Over 100 killed after heaviest night of strikes hit only power plant, Hamas leader's house and TV headquarters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis on Monday to be ready for a 'prolonged' war

Heather Saul
Tuesday 29 July 2014 16:02
A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows smoke billowing from a power plant in the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli air strike
A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows smoke billowing from a power plant in the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli air strike

The conflict between Israel and Gaza has escalated with the heaviest night of strikes during three weeks of fighting, after the Israeli Prime Minister warned of a "prolonged" military campaign that will continue until it is confident Hamas' network of tunnels have been destroyed.

Local health officials say at least 100 people have been killed in Gaza within just 24 hours and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said this number could include humanitarian workers.

The home of Hamas Gaza political leader Ismail Haniyeh was among the locations targeted by air, sea and land strikes overnight in the heaviest bombardment of Gaza since the start of the conflict in July.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry said the aircraft damaged the unoccupied house. There were no reports of casualties.

Mr Haniyeh issued a defiant statement after his home was hit, saying: "My house is not more valuable than the houses of other people. Destroying stones will not break our determination."

The West Bank-based Palestinian leadership, claiming it was speaking for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, voiced support on Tuesday for a 24-72 hour ceasefire. However, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it did not reflect their position, adding: "Hamas gave no approval to anything Abed Rabbo said."

The Israeli military said three rockets were fired from Gaza, two of which hit open spaces in central Israel.

Electricity distribution officials told Reuters the fuel depot at Gaza's only power plant was struck by tank shells on Tuesday, cutting Gaza residents' already limited access to electricity.

Hamas said that its media outlets, Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted in the strikes but continued to broadcast. A video taken by the Associated Press showed a massive flash as the first strike hit the top of the building, sending debris raining down. The building houses offices of a number of Arab satellite television news channels.

The Abu Khadra government complex in Gaza City was also badly damaged by the Israeli attacks.

At least 13 Palestinians have reportedly died in the overnight bombardement. A Palestinian health official put the overall Gaza death toll at 1,110 after 22 days of fighting. Israel has lost 53 soldiers, and three civilians, including ten soldiers since Monday.

The bombardment came as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” military campaign that would continue until Hamas tunnels have been demolished.

In a televised address on Monday night, Mr Netanyahu said: "We will not finish the operation without neutralising the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children.”

This morning, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced Israel as a "rabid dog" for its attacks on Gaza, and urged Muslims to arm Palestinians to enable them to counter what he termed genocide.

On Monday, the Hamas-run health ministry said 10 people, including nine children under the age of 12, were killed and 46 wounded in the blast at a park in the Shati refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City. Each side has accused the other of being responsible for the deaths.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the explosion was caused when a rocket launched by Gaza militants misfired and landed in the park. Palestinian police and civil defence said an Israeli missile hit as children were playing on a swing set.

Israeli tanks 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 cross-border attacks came following failed attempts at brokering a brief ceasefire to mark the start of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr that celebrates the end of Ramadan.

Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until it wins international guarantees that a border blockade of Gaza will be lifted after seven years of being in place.

Israel said its troops will not vacate Gaza until they have demolished several dozen Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

Additional reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press

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