Violence soars in Gaza as Israel digs in for long fight
GAZA/JERUSALEM - Reuters
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City on early July 29. AP photoIsrael’s military pounded targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country should prepare for a long conflict in the Palestinian enclave, squashing any hopes of a swift end to 22 days of fighting.
Gaza residents reported heavy Israeli bombing in Gaza City. Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh and flattened it before dawn, causing damage but no casualties, Gaza’s interior ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said 70 targets were struck in Gaza through the night. At least 30 people were killed in the assaults from air, land and sea, residents said, after a night of the most widespread attacks so far in the coastal enclave. “My house is not dearer than any of the houses of our people,” Haniyeh was quoted as saying on a Hamas website. “The destruction of stones will not break our will and we will continue our resistance until we gain freedom.”
The Israeli military said five soldiers were killed in a battle with militants who crossed into Israel via a tunnel near the community of Nahal Oz, close to the Gaza border. Israeli Army Radio said Hamas gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers who were in a watchtower and then tried to drag one of the soldiers’ bodies into the tunnel back to Gaza, but failed when troops fired at them, killing one militant. Hamas said nine of its fighters carried out the attack.
Television station targeted
The incident on Monday raised to 10 the number of military fatalities for the day. Hamas said its broadcast outlets Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent. Residents said that 20 houses were destroyed during the night and two mosques were hit.
Fuel tank at Gaza power plant hit
Witnesses said the fuel storage at Gaza’s main power plant was struck, sending thick black plumes of smoke up into the air and leaving Gaza City and many other areas in the battered enclave without electricity. Israel launched its offensive on July 8 saying it wanted to halt rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies. More than 1,100 Gazans, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have been killed as well as three civilians.
Netanyahu seeks demilitarization of the territory
In a televised address on Monday night, a grim-faced Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would require the demilitarization of the Palestinian territory, controlled by Hamas Islamists and their militant allies.
“We will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children,” Netanyahu said. As night fell, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling was heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes around Gaza City - usually the prelude to major army strikes. “We need to be prepared for a lengthy campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished,” Netanyahu said.
A number of rockets fired from Gaza were launched toward southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area. At least one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. No casualties or damage were reported. “His threats do not frighten either Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the (Israeli) occupation will pay the price for its massacres against children and civilians,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.