By Alexandra Zavis and Batsheva Sobelman, Los Angeles Times
GAZA CITY — Israel pummeled the Gaza Strip from the air, land and sea on Tuesday, hitting government buildings, a television station and other symbols of the Hamas militant group’s power in the coastal enclave.
It was one of the most intense bombardments of Israel’s 22-day operation to dismantle the group’s rocket-launching capabilities and destroy a network of tunnels used by Palestinian militants to funnel weapons and fighters into Israel.
Orange flares and crashing explosions lit up the night sky. The pounding came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country “must be prepared for a prolonged campaign.”
The local Health Ministry said more than 100 Palestinians were killed Tuesday, pushing the death toll for the campaign past 1,200.
Israeli officials and news reports said five of the country’s soldiers were killed the previous day when heavily armed militants emerged from a tunnel near a kibbutz called Nahal Oz and fired at them with anti-tank missiles. The country has lost 53 soldiers, along with two civilians and a foreign worker.
Israel’s military said its forces targeted more than 70 sites in Gaza overnight, including four weapons storage sites and a rocket launcher concealed in or near mosques.
The strikes destroyed the vacant home of Hamas’ top political leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, and damaged offices of the group’s Al Aqsa television station. Also destroyed was the Ministry of Finance, which Israel says is used to fund and manage Hamas’ “terror activities.”
A fuel tank supplying Gaza’s only power plant was hit, igniting a fire that shut down the facility and sent a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky, local news reports said.
Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT