According to Reuters, Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, flattened the home of its Islamist Hamas political leader and pounded dozens of other high-profile targets in the enclave on Tuesday (July 29), with no end in sight to more than three weeks of conflict.
Health officials said at least 79 Palestinians were killed in some of heaviest bombardments from air, sea and land since the Israeli offensive began in response to Hamas rocket attacks.
The Israeli assault intensified following the deaths of 10 Israeli soldiers in cross-border attacks on Monday (July 28), with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of a long conflict ahead.
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 initial damage assessments suggested 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 tank shelling of the tanks containing some three million cubic litres of diesel fuel.
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. Gazans who have had a few hours electricity a day since the conflict began now face months without power.
COMMENT: What the UN Security Council fails to realize is that neither Israel or Hamas are anywhere close to a cease-fire until such time as one or the other is within an inch of being neutralized.
Until that occurs, the time for discussion has come and gone.
That being said, as both US President Barack Obama and the UN Security Council have called for an immediate ceasefire, the reality is that PM Netanyahu has a war to fight for Israel's very survival, considering that Hamas' principle objective is to eliminate Israel as a functioning government.
Seemingly, what neither President Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN Security Council fail to realize is that the subterranean fortified, concrete-reinforced bunkers Hamas has constructed accessing both Egypt and Israel are designed to posture mayhem rather than diplomacy.
Netanyahu said on Monday the military would not end its offensive until it destroys 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 soldiers killed five gunmen who opened fire after emerging from a tunnel inside the Gaza Strip and that 110 targets were struck in the enclave on Tuesday (July 29). They included four weapons caches, which the military said were hidden in mosques, and a rocket launcher near another mosque. Residents said 20 houses were destroyed and two mosques hit.
Local hospital officials said Israeli tank shells and air strikes killed 10 people in and around Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, raising the number of Palestinian dead, most of them civilians, to 1,139 in the current conflict. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have been killed and three civilians.
Before dawn, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh, a former Palestinian prime minister, destroying the structure but causing no casualties, Gaza's Interior Ministry said.
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.
In a televised address on Monday (July 28), PM Netanyahu said Israel "must be prepared for a lengthy campaign." The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes around Gaza City--usually a prelude to major Israeli strikes.
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 a series of Hamas tunnels that criss-cross the border area.
Israel wants Gaza's armed groups stripped of weapons. Hamas and its allies want an Israeli-Egyptian blockade lifted.