Israeli airstrike levels 7-storey building in Gaza

Gaza City - Israeli airstrikes levelled a seven-floor office building and severely damaged a two-storey shopping centre in the Gaza Strip early on Sunday, signalling a new escalation in seven weeks of fighting with Hamas.

The strikes in the southern town of Rafah came just hours after Israel bombed an apartment tower in Gaza City, collapsing the 12-storey building with 44 apartments.

The targeting of large buildings appears to be part of a new military tactic by Israel. Over the weekend, the army began warning Gaza residents in automated phone calls that it would target buildings harbouring "terrorist infrastructure" and that they should stay away.

A senior military official confirmed that Israel has a policy of striking at buildings containing Hamas operational centres or those from which military activities are launched. The official said each strike required prior approval from military lawyers and is carried out only after the local population is warned.

However, he said, there was now a widening of locations that the military can target. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with reporters.

20 strikes

Meanwhile, Gaza militants continued to fire rockets and mortar shells at Israel, including at least 10 on Sunday, the military said. That was in addition to more than 100 on Saturday, most aimed at southern Israel.

Elsewhere, five rockets were fired from Syria and fell in open areas in northern Israel. It was not immediately clear whether they were fired by pro-government forces or rebel groups.

Amid persistent violence, Egypt has urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume indirect talks in Cairo on a durable cease-fire, but stopped short of issuing invitations.

Several rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas have collapsed, along with temporary cease-fires that accompanied them.

The gaps between Israel and the Islamic militant group on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza remain vast, and there's no sign either is willing to budge.

The Israeli military said it had carried out some 20 strikes on Gaza since midnight on Saturday.

In Rafah, Israeli aircraft bombed the seven-story Zourab building, which houses an office of the Hamas-run Interior Ministry.

Witnesses said the building was levelled and that the strikes caused severe damage to nearby shops, homes and cars.

17 000 homes destroyed

Another strike hit a nearby shopping centre with dozens of shops, sparking a fire that gutted the two-story building. After daybreak on Sunday, smoke was still rising from the site as shop owners inspected the damage. Windows and doors had been blown out in nearby buildings.

The military said the two buildings were attacked because they housed facilities linked to militants, but did not provide details. The Gaza City apartment tower toppled on Saturday was targeted because a Hamas command centre operated from there, the army said.

Palestinian health official Ashraf Al Kidra said two people were killed in a pair of airstrikes near a coastal road on Sunday, including one on a group of people coming out of a mosque after morning prayers.

Two more fatalities were registered when a motorcycle following a car evacuating the wounded from the strikes was targeted.

The UN estimates that more than 17 000 homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair since the war began on 8 July. In some of the attacks, family homes with three or four floors were pulverised.

However, the weekend strikes marked the first time large buildings were toppled.

Since the fighting began, Israel has launched some 5 000 airstrikes at Gaza, while Gaza militants have fired close to 4 000 rockets and mortars, according to the Israeli military.

More than 2 100 Palestinians, including close to 500 children, have been killed, according to Palestinian health officials and UN figures. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and four civilians.

Israel says it is targeting sites linked to militants, including rocket launchers, command centres and weapons depots. The UN says about three-fourths of the Palestinians killed have been civilians.

- AP
Read more on: un hamas palestine israel gaza
Jojo Balela 2014-08-24 10:00:39 AM
the destruction of the building is justified because in it there was one man whose cousin had a friend who watched a movie about AlQaeda
Enig Ma 2014-08-24 10:05:08 AM
Israel's war is not only with hamas, but also those who helped put them in power, and keep them in power. Go on Israel, cleanse Palestine, Syriah and whoever support these evil doers.
Maverick Shaddy 2014-08-24 10:09:47 AM
Apathaid state israil is a devilish state
Zolani Makhasi 2014-08-24 10:10:03 AM
Be an Ally of the US and you can get away with anything.
Coenraad Vaneeden 2014-08-24 10:11:14 AM
Just level the place and your problem solved
Andre Sunnasy 2014-08-24 10:19:27 AM
Leaders on both sides have no regard for human life. No side can justify killing innocents. As for people siding with either Israel or Gaza in trying to justify the killings, they may as well be firing the rockets themselves.
Victor Tarica 2014-08-24 10:28:06 AM
The 'collaborators' that are being executed by Hamas are people that did not want to be bombed by Israel and left the area to save their families. Hamas needs to be removed from Gaza. As they get more desperate they will sacrifice more of their own people which is a very sad situation.
Elyas Yakub 2014-08-24 10:28:33 AM
what israel did with palestaine we not gona do here but we will only take of your 60% property's for black people of this country, we will help ANC or EFF let see who got guts to take us out from here, then you call your israel to come and help,we watching you all who support israel,,,,,it mence you still suporting apartheid.
Frank Jams 2014-08-24 10:34:25 AM
Israel first warns civilians before it flattens them together with the buildings. ISIS militants warn the government & family of hostages they hold before killing them. Both are murderers. Full stop.
Sthembiso Mlangen 2014-08-24 10:55:30 AM
Zionism is equal to racism