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calendar   Tuesday - July 29, 2014

Lights Out In Gaza

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel stepped up its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the area’s only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far.

Flares turned the sky over Gaza City orange overnight and by daybreak, as the conflict entered its fourth week, heavy clouds of dust hovered over the territory. A thick column of black smoke rose from a burning fuel tank at the power plant.

The pounding came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a “prolonged” campaign against Hamas. It was not clear if this meant Israel has decided to go beyond the initial objectives of decimating Hamas’ ability to fire rockets and demolishing the group’s military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

Already, the intensity and the scope of the current Gaza operation is on par with an invasion five years ago, which ended with a unilateral Israeli withdrawal after hitting Hamas hard.

In Tuesday’s strikes, Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of attacks, leveling the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and damaging the offices of the movement’s Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, a central mosque in Gaza City and government offices.

Haniyeh, whose house was turned into a mountain of rubble by a pre-dawn airstrike, said in a statement Tuesday that “destroying stones will not break our determination.”

No one was hurt in Haniyeh’s home. Since the start of the war, Israel has targeted several homes of Hamas leaders but none was killed presumably as they appear to have gone into hiding.

Gaza’s power plant was forced to shut down after two tank shells hit one of three fuel tanks, said Jamal Dardasawi, a spokesman for Gaza’s electricity distribution company. The shelling sparked a large fire and a huge column of smoke was seen rising from the site. Dardasawi said 15 workers were trapped inside by the fire and that the damage would take months to repair. There was no immediate word on casualties.

“The power plant is finished,” its director, Mohammed al-Sharif, told Reuters.

Even before the shutdown, Gaza residents only had electricity for about three hours a day because fighting had damaged power lines.

He said the local fire brigade was not equipped to extinguish the blaze.

An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment and said she was checking the report.

The plant had already been hit last week and was working at a reduced capacity of about 20 percent, allowing only a few hours of electricity a day for Gaza’s residents.

Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza on July 8, saying it wanted to halt rocket attacks by the dominant Hamas movement and other armed groups. Ten days later, it sent in ground forces with the declared aim of destroying Hamas tunnels that criss-cross the border area.

Though international pressure has been mounting to end the fighting, there is no end in sight to the 22-day conflict in which 1,116 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 53 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/29/2014 at 12:15 PM   
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