Dozens Of Israeli Warplanes ‘Bomb Hamas Leaders’ Homes And Underground Tunnels In Gaza.
Heaviest Barrage Yet’ Death Toll Rises To 207 And Climbing
Israeli airstrikes continued to pound Gaza overnight after Hamas fired 70 rockets at cities in southern Israel
IDF said 54 fighter jets hit the homes of nine Hamas commanders and bombed tunnel network under Gaza
Meanwhile a synagogue was destroyed by a rocket that landed in Ashkelon shortly before Shavuot services
Death toll now stands at 207 – 197 of whom are Palestinian, and at least 59 of whom are children
Overnight Sunday to Monday, 54 Israeli jets took 20 minutes to bomb 35 targets largely in and around Gaza City in what witnesses described as the most intense bombardment since fighting broke out on Monday last week.
Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip Monday, after a week of violence between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants left more than 200 people dead despite continuing international calls for de-escalation.
The IDF said it had struck the homes of nine ‘high-ranking’ Hamas commanders, some of which were also used to store weapons, along with a nine-mile stretch of underground tunnels which it refers to as ‘the Metro’.
There was no immediate word on the casualties from the latest strikes. A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged, but residents said the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike and everyone cleared out. They said many of the airstrikes hit nearby farmland.
Meanwhile Hamas fired 70 rockets at Israel, the IDF said, 10 of which fell short in Gaza. Most of the remainder were intercepted by Iron Dome defences but at least one destroyed a synagogue in Ashkelon shortly before prayers.
There was no indication Monday morning of the number of people killed in strikes overnight, but the death toll from the previous week of fighting now stands at 207 – including 197 Palestinians and at least 59 children.
More than 1,200 Palestinians have been wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets. The heaviest exchange of fire in years was sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.
In Israel, 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 294 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.
The night of strikes began when Hamas rockets were fired at the cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, with one slamming into a synagogue hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported.
Israeli aircraft then launched their own raids, with the IDF saying that nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders were hit. Some of the homes were used for weapons storage, it said.
Later in the morning, Palestinian media reported that Israel had struck a factory in northern Gaza. Video on social media showed a column of thick black smoke rising into the air.
Gaza mayor Yahya Sarraj said the strikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure, and that he expected ‘the situation to get much worse’ if the bombardment continued.
It came amid reports that just one turbine at the power station which supplies much of Gaza’s electricity is now working, threatening mass blackouts including at hospitals and interruption to water supplies.
The U.N. has warned that the territory’s sole power station is at risk of running out of fuel, and Sarraj said Gaza was also low on spare parts.
Gaza already experiences daily power outages for between eight and 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable. Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the the territory’s electricity distribution company, said it has fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or a three days.
Airstrikes have damaged supply lines and the company’s staff cannot reach areas that were hit because of continued Israeli shelling, he added.
West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed ‘horror and fear’ at the intensity of the onslaught.
‘There have never been strikes of this magnitude,’ he said.
Gazan Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘should realise we’re civilians, not fighters’, adding ‘I felt like I was dying’.
The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza – including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry – were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.
Israel’s army said about 3,100 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza – the highest rate ever recorded – but added its Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.
Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s ‘campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force’ and would ‘take time’ to finish.
The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and armed group Islamic Jihad, weapons factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
On Saturday, Israel gave journalists from Al Jazeera and AP news agency an hour to evacuate their offices before launching air strikes, turning their tower block into piles of smoking rubble.
Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian ‘terrorist’ intelligence office.
‘It is a perfectly legitimate target,’ he said.
‘I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work,’ said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza. ‘Not even in the 2014 war.’
Rescuers furiously dug through the rubble using excavators and bulldozers amid clouds of heavy dust. One shouted, ‘Can you hear me?’ into a hole. Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 wounded.
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes sent her fleeing into the street.
She accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack.
‘We are tired,’ she said, ‘We need a truce. We can´t bear it anymore.’
Gazans watch with pride as Hamas strikes Israel
“Israel is more powerful, no argument about that,” said Gaza City grocer Safwan Darwish, watching a Hamas TV station in his shop. “But this strong state which all Arabs fear found itself under the mercy of fire from Gaza.”