Israel hits Gaza power plant and destroys home of Hamas leader

At least 30 Palestinians killed as Israeli assault intensifies, taking out the enclave's only power plant and flattening the home of Hamas leader

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 11:36am

Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, flattened the home of a Hamas leader and pounded dozens of other high-profile targets in the enclave yesterday.

Some of the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "prolonged" campaign in Gaza.

Health officials said at least 100 Palestinians were killed yesterday as Israeli forces pounded the enclave from air, sea and land. The Israeli assault intensified following the deaths of 10 Israeli soldiers in cross-border attacks on Monday.

Watch: Palestinian officials: Israel shell Gaza's sole power plant

Thick black smoke rose from blazing fuel tanks at the power station that supplies up to two-thirds of Gaza's energy needs. The local energy authority said the plant could be out of action for a year.

Electricity was cut to the city of Gaza and many other parts of the Hamas-dominated territory after what officials said was Israeli shelling.

"The power plant is finished," said its director, Mohammed al-Sharif.

Gaza City municipality said damage to the station could halt many of the area's water pumps, and it urged residents to ration water consumption.

Some rockets were fired from Gaza toward southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area. At least one was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system. No casualties or damage were reported.

In the West Bank, a top PLO official offered a 24-hour truce yesterday, saying he also spoke in the name of Hamas, but the Islamic militants said they want to hear from Israel first. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined comment.

On Monday, Netanyahu said the military would not end its offensive until it destroyed a network of Hamas tunnels, which Israel says serve as the group's bunkers, weapon caches and cross-border infiltration routes to attack Israelis.

The Israeli military said 70 targets were struck in Gaza during the night, including four weapons caches it said were hidden in mosques, and a rocket launcher near another mosque.

At least 1,156 Gazans, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have been killed as well as three civilians.

The main UN agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said more than 182,000 displaced Palestinians had taken shelter in its schools and buildings, following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods ahead of military operations.

Watch: Israel shells house of Hamas political leader Haniya

Before dawn, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, a former Palestinian prime minister, destroying the structure but causing no casualties.

"My house is not dearer than any of the houses of our people," Haniyeh told a Hamas website. "The destruction of stones will not break our will and we will continue our resistance until we gain freedom."

Hamas, whose internal political leadership is in hiding, said its broadcast outlets Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent.

The military said the stations were used to "transit orders and messages to Hamas operatives and to instruct Gaza residents to ignore IDF [Israel Defence Forces] warnings regarding upcoming military activity in specific areas".

In a televised address on Monday, Netanyahu said Israel "must be prepared for a lengthy campaign".

The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes around Gaza City - usually the prelude to major army strikes.

Israel launched its offensive on July 8 saying it wanted to halt rocket attacks by militants.