Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip’s only power plant.
The fighting came as diplomatic efforts to forge a truce remained stalled despite a death toll that Palestinian officials said rose above 1,200 on Tuesday. The shadowy leader of the Hamas military wing said his group will not cease fire until its demands are met.
On Tuesday evening, residents of the sprawling Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza reported intense tank shelling. Ten members of an extended family were killed and 50 other people wounded in the area, Palestinian health officials said. Two brothers driving in a car with markings of a U.N. aid agency were killed by shrapnel, an area resident said.
“It was like an earthquake,” Moussa al-Mabhouh, a volunteer for Gaza’s Civil Defense, said of the scene. “Roofs collapsed, walls cracked and wounded people everywhere.”
The heavy strikes — which came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a “prolonged” campaign against Hamas — were a new blow to international efforts to reach a sustainable truce in the fighting.
Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels that have been used by the militants to infiltrate the Jewish state. For its part, Hamas has so far rejected cease-fire efforts unless its demands are met, including a lifting of a punishing blockade.
The rare remarks by the Hamas military wing’s leader, Mohammed Deif, were broadcast late Tuesday on Al-Aqsa TV, the satellite station of Hamas.
“There is not going to be a cease-fire as long as the demands of our people are not fulfilled,” he said.
Deif’s voice was recognizable in the audio statement. He has survived repeated Israeli assassination attempts and has operated from hiding for years.
Al-Aqsa also broadcast a videotape it said showed an infiltration by Hamas fighters into Israel on Monday through a border tunnel.
At least 1,210 Palestinians have been killed, including 109 on Tuesday, and 7,000 wounded since the start of fighting July 8, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. He said 16 other people died of wounds sustained on previous days.
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. The plant’s shutdown was bound to lead to further serious disruptions of the flow of electricity and water to Gaza’s 1.7 million people.