GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israel knocked out Gaza’s only power plant and pounded dozens of other high-profile targets yesterday, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised proposal for halting its war with Islamist guerrillas in the enclave.
Israel’s Channel Two TV said progress was being made on such a deal in Cairo, where a Palestinian delegation was expected later yesterday.
Health officials said at least 85 Palestinians died in some of heaviest bombardments from air, sea and land since Israel’s offensive began on July 8 in response to rocket salvoes fired by Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists and their guerrilla allies.
Local hospital officials put the total number of Palestinian dead in the conflict at 1,200, most of them civilians. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.
UNRWA, the main UN relief agency in Gaza, said it was at “breaking point” with more than 200,000 Palestinians having taken shelter in its schools and buildings following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods before military operations.
The Israeli assault intensified after the deaths of 10 soldiers in Palestinian cross-border attacks on Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of a long conflict ahead.
The army said it needed about a week to complete its main mission of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels.
Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s armed wing, said that Palestinians would continue confronting Israel until its blockade on Gaza — which is supported by neighbouring Egypt — was lifted.
Palestinians launched 54 rockets towards southern and central Israel. Five were shot down by Iron Dome interceptors while the rest fell wide, causing no damage.
Before dawn, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas deputy leader Ismail Haniyeh, a former Palestinian prime minister, destroying the structure but causing no casualties. Hamas said its broadcasters Al Aqsa TV and Al Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent.