Gaza residents reported heavy Israeli bombing in Gaza City. Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh and flattened it before dawn, causing damage but no casualties, Gaza’s interior ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said 70 targets were struck in Gaza through the night. At least 30 people were killed in the assaults from air, land and sea, residents said, after a night of the most widespread attacks so far in the coastal enclave.
“My house is not dearer than any of the houses of our people,” Haniyeh was quoted as saying on a Hamas website. “The destruction of stones will not break our will and we will continue our resistance until we gain freedom.”
The Israeli military said five soldiers were killed in a battle with militants who crossed into Israel via a tunnel near the community of Nahal Oz, close to the Gaza border.
Israeli Army Radio said Hamas gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers who were in a watchtower and then tried to drag one of the soldiers’ bodies into the tunnel back to Gaza, but failed when troops fired at them, killing one militant.
Hamas said nine of its fighters carried out the attack.
“They attacked a fortified military watch tower of Nahal Oz where there were a great number of occupation soldiers,” the group’s armed wing, said in a statement.
The incident on Monday raised to 10 the number of military fatalities for the day.
Hamas 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.
Residents said that 20 houses were destroyed during the night and two mosques were hit.
Witnesses said the fuel storage at Gaza’s main power plant was struck, sending thick black plumes of smoke up into the air and leaving Gaza City and many other areas in the battered enclave without electricity.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 saying it wanted to halt rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies. It later ordered a land invasion to find and destroy the warren of Hamas tunnels that criss-crosses the border area.
It says some of the tunnels reach into Israel and are meant for perpetrating surprise attacks on residents of nearby towns, while other underground passages in Gaza serve as Hamas bunkers and weapons caches.
More than 1,100 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.
In a televised address on Monday night, a grim-faced Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would require the demilitarisation of the Palestinian territory, controlled by Hamas Islamists and their militant allies.
“We will not finish the operation without neutralising the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children,” Netanyahu said.
As night fell, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling was heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes around Gaza City – usually the prelude to major army strikes.
“We need to be prepared for a lengthy campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished,” Netanyahu said.
A number of rockets fired from Gaza were launched toward southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area. At least one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. No casualties or damage were reported.
“His threats do not frighten either Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the (Israeli) occupation will pay the price for its massacres against children and civilians,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told.