24 Aug 2014

Israeli military flattens Gaza tower block

Israel’s military destroys a 13-storey apartment block in Gaza, saying it had housed a Hamas command centre, warning residents of more attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Gaza residents to leave any site where Palestinian militants were operating, after a strike by the Israeli military destroyed a 13-storey residential tower block.

“I call on the inhabitants of Gaza to vacate immediately every site from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Every one of these places is a target for us.”

More air strikes have been launched by Israel after Palestinian militants kept up their cross-border rocket fire in what has become a conflict of attrition now entering its seventh week.

An Israeli air strike killed two people on a motorcycle in Gaza, just hours after a bombing attack brought Al Zafer Tower in Gaza city crashing to the ground.

It was the first time Israel had destroyed such a large structure in the Gaza conflict. It launched the attack a day after a mortar bomb killed a four-year-old Israeli boy.

The Israeli military said the tower block contained a command centre belonging to Hamas militants, and that it had fired a non-explosive warning rocket on Saturday 10 minutes before attacking.

Local residents said 44 families were living in the residential tower, and medical officials said 17 people were wounded in the Israeli strike.

Attritional conflict

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to stop hostilities and return to peace talks, but there were no signs that negotiations – last held before a ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday – would resume any time soon.

Israel faced rocket fire from the north on Saturday, with two missiles launched from Lebanon striking Israel’s Galilee.

Lebanese and Israeli sources said it was not initially clear who was behind the attack, which caused no casualties or damage.

At least five rockets fired from Syria landed at various locations on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli army said.

All fell in open areas, and it was also not immediately clear who launched them.

Late on Saturday, an Israeli air strike destroyed a commercial centre in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and three people were hurt, according to local medical staff.

Palestinian health officials say 2,085 people, most of them civilians and more than 400 of them children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since 8 July, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending Palestinian rocket fire into its territory.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.

Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza is lifted.