CITY OF GAZA, Gaza Strip (AP) – The Israeli military launched a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Monday, saying it had destroyed 15 kilometers (nine miles) of military tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders.
Residents of Gaza, awakened by the barrage at night, described it as the worst since the start of the war a week ago and even more powerful than the wave of air strikes in the city of Gaza the day before, which left 42 dead and flattened three buildings. This earlier attack was the deadliest in the current round of hostilities between Israel and the rulers of Hamas of Gaza.
There was no direct news of the victims of the recent strikes. A three-story building in Gaza City was badly damaged, but residents said the military had warned them 1
Gaza Mayor Yahya Saraj told Al-Jazeera television that the strikes had caused severe damage to roads and other infrastructure. “If the aggression continues, we expect conditions to worsen,” he said.
The UN has warned that the only power plant in the area is at risk of running out of fuel, and Saraj said Gaza also has few spare parts. The gas is already experiencing daily power outages between eight and 12 hours and tap water cannot be drunk. Mohamed Tabet, a spokesman for the territory’s electricity distribution company, said there was fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or three days. The air strikes damaged supply lines and company employees were unable to reach areas affected by ongoing Israeli shelling, he added.
The war broke out last Monday when the Hamas battle group fired long-range missiles at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the holy city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.. The protests focused on heavy police at a sacred lightning site during the holy month of Muslim Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families. by Jewish settlers.
The Israeli army has since carried out hundreds of air strikes, which it says are aimed at Hamas’ combat infrastructure. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 missiles at Israel.
The strikes killed at least 188 Palestinians, including 55 children and 33 women, and injured 1,230. Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks by Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
“I have not seen this level of destruction in my 14 years of work,” said Samir al-Khatib, a rescue worker in Gaza. “Neither in the war in 2014,” he added, referring to the most destructive of the previous three wars between Israel and Hamas.
The military said it had struck nine houses in various parts of northern Gaza that belonged to “high-ranking commanders” in Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has controlled the territory since seizing power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
In recent days, Israel has targeted the homes of a number of senior Hamas leaders, including Yehie Sinwar, the top leader in Gaza. The group’s leadership went underground when the fighting broke out, and it is unlikely that anyone was at home during the strikes.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says they are much larger and has published the names and photos of more than two dozen fighters commanders, who it says are were “eliminated.”
The military said it had hit 35 “terrorist targets”, as well as tunnels that it said were part of a complex system it called the Metro, used by fighters to cover up air strikes.
Despite international ceasefire efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israeli attacks were continuing “in full force” and would “take time.” Israel “wants to impose a high price” on the Hamas battle group.
Hamas-based foreign leader Ismail Hanie said the group had been linked by the United States, Russia, Egypt and Qatar as part of a ceasefire effort, but “will not take a decision that does not depend on the victims.” of the Palestinian people. ”
In an interview with the Lebanese daily Al-Ahbar, he blamed the war for Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and boasted that the missiles “paralyzed the usurping structure (Israel) by imposing curfews on its citizens and closing their airports and ports.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his government was working to “urgently” end the violence in its first comments since the war broke out. Egypt, which borders Gaza and Israel, has played a central role in the truce that erupted after previous rounds.
Israeli airstrikes leveled a number of Gaza’s tallest buildings, which Israel said contained Hamas’ military infrastructure. Among them was the building that houses the Associated Press office in Gaza and those of other media. The Israeli military alerted staff and residents before the strike, and everyone was able to evacuate the building safely.
Sally Busby, the AP’s executive editor, called for an independent air strike investigation.
Netanyahu claimed that Hamas military intelligence was operating in the building and said on Sunday that all evidence would be shared through intelligence channels. Neither the White House nor the State Department would say if anyone was seen.
The AP has operated the building for 15 years, including in three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. News agency cameras working from its top-floor office and rooftop terrace offered live shots around the clock as warheads fired at Israel and Israeli air strikes killed the city and surrounding area.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt issued a statement after Saturday’s attack, saying he was “shocked and horrified” that Israel had targeted the building. He said the AP had no “indication that Hamas was in or acted in the building.”
“This is something we are actively investigating as much as possible,” he said. “We would never deliberately put our journalists at risk.”
Kraus announced from Jerusalem. Associated Press authors Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.