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Israel attacks symbols of Hamas power in Gaza

Updated: 2014-07-30 07:17
By Agencies in Gaza ( China Daily)

 Israel attacks symbols of Hamas power in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike destroys a mosque on Tuesday in Gaza City. Mahmud Hams / Agence France-Presse

Heaviest bombardment in city so far destroys home of movement's leader

Israel struck symbols of Hamas' control of Gaza and the strip's only power plant on Tuesday, escalating its military campaign against the Islamic militant group with the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far.

Flares turned the sky over Gaza City orange overnight and by daybreak, as the conflict entered its fourth week, heavy clouds of dust hovered over the territory.

The pounding came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday of a "prolonged" campaign against Hamas.

Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of attacks, leveling the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and damaging the offices of the movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, a central mosque and government offices.

Gaza's power plant was forced to shut down after two tank shells hit one of three fuel tanks, said Jamal Dardasawi, a spokesman for Gaza's electricity distribution company. The shelling sparked a large fire and a huge column of smoke was seen rising from the site. Dardasawi said 15 workers were trapped inside by the fire and that the damage would take months to repair. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Even before the shutdown, Gaza residents only had electricity for about three hours a day because fighting had damaged power lines.

Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, did not comment on the explosion at the plant, but said Israel's latest strikes signal "a gradual increase in the pressure" on Hamas.

Israel is "determined to strike this organization and relieve us of this threat", Lerner said.

Hamas also signaled defiance. Haniyeh, whose house had been turned into a mountain of rubble by an airstrike before dawn on Tuesday, said in a statement that "destroying stones will not break our determination". No one was hurt in the hit on Haniyeh's home and he was not there at the time of the strike.

Since the start of the war, Israel has targeted several homes of Hamas leaders but none was killed presumably as they appear to have gone into hiding.

Bigger gains

International calls for an unconditional cease-fire have been mounting in recent days, as the extent of the destruction in Gaza became more apparent.

More than 1,110 Palestinians have been killed and more than 6,500 wounded since July 8.

Israel has lost 53 soldiers, along with two civilians and a Thai worker.

Tens of thousands of Gazans have been displaced by fighting in the border areas, which have come under heavy tank fire. Late on Monday, Israel urged residents of three large neighborhoods in northeastern Gaza to leave their homes and immediately head to Gaza City.

Despite appeals for a cease-fire, both sides have been holding out for bigger gains.

Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until it wins international guarantees that a crippling border blockade of Gaza will be lifted. Israel and Egypt had imposed the closure after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, defeating forces loyal to their political rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Over the past year, Egypt has further tightened restrictions, shutting down hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that had provided crucial tax income to Hamas. The closure of the tunnels drove Hamas into a severe financial crisis.

Israel has said it is defending its citizens against attack from Gaza by hitting Hamas rocket launchers, weapons storage sites and military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

Israel said its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished the tunnels that have been used by Hamas to sneak into Israel to try to carry out attacks.

AP-Reuters

 

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