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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

World

Israel strikes house of Hamas Gaza leader, digs in for long fight

Reuters | Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

A fire ball and smoke is seen during an Israeli strike on Gaza City early on July 26, 2014.

 

GAZA - Israel's military pounded targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country needed to be prepared for a long conflict in the Palestinian enclave, squashing any hopes of a swift end to 22 days of fighting.

In the latest development, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh before dawn on Tuesday causing damage but no casualties, Gaza's interior ministry said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman had no information on the report but was checking for details.

Eleven people were killed in a strike on a house in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City as Israeli forces hit targets across the territory in the most widespread night of attacks in the coastal enclave so far.

Hamas said that 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.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive on July 8, saying its aim was 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 crisscrosses the border area.

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, which is controlled by Hamas Islamists and their militant allies.

"We will not finish the mission, we will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children,"Netanyahu said, adding that it had been a "painful day."

An opinion poll broadcast by Israel's Channel 10 television showed overwhelming Israeli public support for continuing the Gaza offensive until Hamas is "disarmed."

As night fell over Gaza, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling could be heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in areas around Gaza City - usually the prelude to major army strikes. "We need to be prepared for a protracted 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 various regions in southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area.

At least one of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. No casualties or damage were reported.

Some 1,087 Gazans, most of them civilians, have died in the 22-day-old conflagration. Israel has lost 48 soldiers and another three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling.

The explosion of violence, after a day of relative calm on Sunday, appeared to wreck international hopes of turning a brief lull in fighting into a longer-term ceasefire.

Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists said they had accepted a UN call for a pause in hostilities on Monday to coincide with Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Israel initially balked, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday when Palestinian rockets kept flying.

However, calm gradually descended through the night with just the occasional exchange of fire heard until a series of blasts shook Gaza in the afternoon.

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