Israel intensifies Gaza attacks after Netanyahu warning

TEL AVIV - More than 100 Palestinians are said to have been killed after Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza and warned of a long conflict ahead.

Gaza's only power plant caught fire as Israel carried out 60 air strikes, targeting sites associated with Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza.

UN staff members are said to be among those killed.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes signalled a "gradual increase in the pressure" on Hamas.

Power plant destroyed

Gazans get power from just one local plant, as well as some supplies from Israel and Egypt.

On Tuesday morning a huge plume of smoke rose over the strip's only power plant after one of its fuel tanks was reportedly set alight by Israeli tank shells, and the facility was forced to shut down.

A fuel depot supplying Gaza's only power station has been hit, as Martin Patience and Chris Morris report
For the last three weeks, most Gazans have been living with just a few hours of electrical supplies - now the situation will almost certainly get worse.

After a brief lull in the fighting earlier this week, the violence has returned with a renewed intensity.

In Gaza City you can hear the constant bombardment of areas close to the Israeli border. There have also been large explosions in the city throughout the morning.

Any sign that a patchwork of truces would lead to more a sustainable ceasefire has been dashed for now.

Israeli soldiers evacuate a "brother in arms" from Operation Protective Edge, as Orla Guerin reports. In a televised address on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the need to destroy tunnels dug under the Gaza-Israel border, to prevent militants infiltrating Israel.

After Tuesday's loss of life in Gaza a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank said rival Palestinian factions had agreed to a unilateral truce lasting at least 24 hours.

Yasser Abed Rabbo of the Palestine Liberation Organization said he spoke for Hamas, but Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the offer was "not serious", the Associated Press reported.

Palestinian officials now say 1,156 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting since 8 July. Some 6,700 have been injured.

Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians - two Israelis and a Thai worker.

Fifty-five houses were destroyed in overnight bombing, with people buried under rubble in at least three of them, Palestinian security sources told the BBC.

The unoccupied house of former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was destroyed.

"The destruction of stones will not break our will and we will continue our resistance until we gain freedom." he was quoted as saying on a Hamas website afterwards.

A neighbour, Um Hani Abu Ryalah, told AP news agency the experience had terrified her family: "Our children... can't hear because of the loud explosions and they are shaking."

Israeli fire is also said to have damaged the Hamas TV and radio stations, three mosques, four factories and government buildings which included the finance ministry and a compound belonging to the interior ministry.

Gaza's port was also destroyed, Palestinian security sources told the BBC, and two schools and a kindergarten were on fire after being hit.

Among the 100 people killed on Tuesday were seven families, the Palestinian health ministry said.

UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said in a tweet that a number of staff members had reportedly been killed. The UN is currently caring for 182,604 Palestinians in its 82 shelters in Gaza, he said.

Elsewhere, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Israel of acting like a "rabid dog" and called on Muslims to arm Palestinians to enable them to fight back against "genocide".

More than three weeks on there is in general very widespread support among Israelis for the Gaza offensive. Recent polls say almost 90% of Israelis are in favour.

Some are beginning to ask whether the army and the government underestimated the tunnel threat from Gaza. Targeting the tunnels is one of Israel's main objectives in this campaign, but destroying them is complicated.

Israel says it has identified more than 30 tunnels - but the army was taken off guard last night when five soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants who came up through a tunnel into Israel.

Military sources say these aren't just single shafts but a labyrinth of underground passageways, some booby-trapped with explosives.

The government says it will not stop the offensive until the tunnels are destroyed.

Targeting tunnels

Rockets fired from Gaza continued to hit Israel on Tuesday.

Lt-Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, told AP pressure was being increased on Hamas.

"Israel is determined to strike this organisation and relieve us of this threat," he said.

On Monday, five Israeli soldiers were killed when militants infiltrated the border, while a mortar bomb killed four earlier and a tenth died in a clash in southern Gaza, the Israeli army said.

In his address on Monday night, Mr Netanyahu said Gaza had to be demilitarised in order to protect Israel.

"We will not finish the operation without neutralising the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children," he said.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July after a surge in militant rocket attacks.

A rally in support of the operation is planned for Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv.

    Comments (6)

    Of those killed by Hamas, 5.5% are civilians. We have read reports that of those killed by Israel, more that 75% are civilians. It then emerges that Hamas are more soldierly here, whilst Israel takes over the terrorist tag. It's only fair if you look at civilian casualties as a total of those killed.

    machakachaka - 30 July 2014

    the Hamas are making shields out of their own population, just as cowardly as they are, going through tunnels, operating in darkness. The Israel soldiers are standing out, fighting the enemies of the God of Heaven, choosing rather to die protecting civilians at all cost.

    ThinkInOtherTerms - 30 July 2014

    May the Lord Jesus Christ intervene between these two countries. Otherwise the spillage of innocent blood will continue

    eddie - 31 July 2014

    What the media does not tell you is that Hamas used their own civilians as human shields. Schools, hospitals and mosques are used to launch rockets into Israel. Palestinian civilians are showered with leaflets warning them of the impending Israeli attack. Civilians are not allowed protection in these tunnels. They have now where to flee. Hamas are the criminals who cannot protect their own people when Israel retaliates from there aggression. When will the media present a balanced report on the middle east.

    vortex - 2 August 2014

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