The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) says it has unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, destroying fifteen kilometers of militant tunnels and the homes of nine alleged Hamas commanders.
Gaza residents, awakened early morning on Monday by the barrage, said it was the heaviest since the conflict began a week ago. A day earlier, a wave of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City killed forty-two and flattened three buildings.
There was no immediate word on the casualties from the Monday raids, although residents said a three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged. They said many of the airstrikes hit nearby farmland.
Al-Jazeera TV reported Gaza’s mayor Yahya Sarraj as saying the airstrikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure. He said if there was no let-up in the bombardments, conditions on the Strip could worsen dramatically.
On Saturday, the UN warned that Gaza’s sole power station was at risk of running out of fuel. The embattled territory already experiences daily power outages of 8-12 hours and tap water is undrinkable.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted last Monday, when militants from Gaza fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem following weeks of clashes in the Holy City between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. The demonstrations were triggered by the heavy-handed policing of a flashpoint holy site during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Also, many Arab residents of disputed East Jerusalem were incensed by the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
Since then, the IDF has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says are targeting Hamas’ militant infrastructure. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed, including fifty-five children and thirty-three women, with 1,230 people injured. In Israel, eight people have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old child.